Skip to main content

Full text of "The rise and decline of the Olympia oyster"

See other formats














Copyright 1957, Olympia Oyster Growers Association 

Published in the United States of America by 





Ode to the Olympia Oyster 

by Jay Bolster 
■Pioneer Olvimpia Poet 

Of all the palate pleasing foods 
Thai spring from land and, sea 
There s no food so dee-licious 
As the oyster is to me. 

I read a lot of literature 
On oysters in m,y quest 
Determined I would find a type 
That outclassed all the rest. 

I read Paul Bunyans Diary 
And learned that Paul had found 
The super oyster of the Gods 
While digging Pugei Sound. 

He called it the Olympia 
And coined a word specific 
Describing the Olympia 
As simply **0\)sieriffic. 

At last mp search ivas ended 
Food of the Cods Vd found 
The nearest place to Paradise— 
''Olympia,''* Pugei Sound. 

And so I settled down to stay 

In this land of the blest. 

Here in this Northwest Wonderland 

To work and play and rest. 

And eat this oyster of the Cods 
Which grows in Pugei Sound. 
With the *'oysierrific* flavor 
For there's no place else it's found. 

Foreword and 

The story '*The Rise and Decline of the Ol^mpia Oyster* Was 
inspired by a desire on the part of today's o^siermen to preserve the 
earl\) history, the yesterdays of the pioneer oystermen. It covers 
more than half a centur]) of the lives of those to whom this hook is 
dedicated, and the part they took in the development of the native 
oyster found by them in the waters of southern Puget Sound; their 
problems and their persistent efforts and ingenuity in overcoming 

Also how, after perfecting a system of oyster culture surpassed 
by none in the oyster n^orld, which yielded abundant crops, they de- 
veloped a market which readily absorbed the supply. Success was 
attained in producing ''An oyster right for the market, a market right 
for the oyster*'. 

In treating that part of the story pertaining to the ** Decline'' of 
the Olympia Oyster industry it goes into how the said pioneers and 
their families, and other oystermen who joined their ranks through 
the years, are being deprived of the fruit of their labors; the cause 
of the decline and its extent. 

Little will be found which appeals to the fiction reader. It is not 
a love story. The only mystery or love story told is ''The love life of 
the oyster". It is simply a story of mens lives, the life of the oyster 
which they cultivated, and the Olympia Oyster industry. 

At the time this historic story Was authorized only three of the 
half century pioneers remained. During its preparation one of the 
three, George W. Draham, has passed on. Fitting references have 

been made to the Very important part played by him, and the Warm 
spot of friendship in the hearts of all. 

The book is necessarily in the first person. The write/s qualifi- 
cations consist principalis in his personal acquaintance with the 
participants in the recorded events and his personal participation in 

I wish to express my appreciation for the co-operation of the 
Olympia Oyster Growers Association and its members. Especially 
do I mention F. W. {Mat) Mathias and Boh Bowers, the commit- 
tee selected, to collaborate with me. They have spent much time re- 
viewing and perfecting the manuscript, as well as in assembling the 

E. N. Steele 

Olympia, Washington, September 30, 1957. 


Or Sam-Saw-Witz-Kaw, respected shaker Priest of the Indian Shakar Church on Mud 
Bay. He promoted friendship among the Indian Northwest tribes by serving Olympia 
Oysters for their annual Shaker Conventions. 


Expert oysterman and member of Quinault Indian Tribe, worked in the oyster 
business for over fifty years. 


JOE Y. WALDRIP, Oyster Pioneer. 
He bought his first oyster land in 1891; 
in 1906 he, Ole Hanson and W. H. Knee- 
land formed the Olympia Oyster Co.. of 
which he was vice president and man- 
ager of the beds until his death in 
August, 1929. 

%,'fiif^'^'^'J^ ^ " ~ '-- "^ *~ - - 
Olympia Oyster beds, home (center) and culling 
house of Herbert Nelson, formerly owned and de- 
veloped by his step father, the late U. G. (Les) 
Young, pioneer grower. Note height of dike and 

Dr. George W. Ingham standing in 
midst of his Olympia Oyster bed, 
dressed in his customary oyster beds 


First Olympia Oyster Culling House on Mud Bay (Eld Inlet). Date about 1890, 
(Photo by J. J. Brenner.) 

Opening and packing house of J. J. Brenner Oyster Company at Oyster Bay, Washington. 

May, 1957. 

Right to Left — Earl G. Brenner, Vice President of J. J. Brenner Oyster Co., son of Jack J. 
Brenner, the founder. John Brenner and Earl Brenner Jr., now carrying on the business. 


First shucking and shipping plant for Olympia Oysters built and operated by J. J. Bren- 
ner on Olympia waterfront in 18S3 — on what is now West Fourth Avenue 

Second shucking and shipping plant of J. J. Brenner Oyster Company on West 4th and 

Simmons Street in 1898. 



Shucking, packing and shipping plant of Olympia Oyster Co., located on West Fourth 
Avenue, Olympia. Built about 1924. Now occupied by Olympia Oyster House. 

■ ■'■■I 

The third shucking and packing plant of the J. J. Brenner Oyster Company, built in 1927, 
Fourth Avenue, Olympia, Washington 



Shucking room with space for 30 shuckers in modern sun light room conforming with all 
State and Federal Health Department sanitation requirements. 

I .^b 

When machinery tool< over the grading operations. This is one of the first outfits of the 
Olympia Oyster Co. The bucket at the end of the boom was lowered, filled, swung to present 
position, dumped on peak of scow house, floated to place to be filled and dumped by raising 
scov/ house side doors. 



Hand Leveling. — Scows were loaded by cutting down high part of bed to desired level, then 
floated to part to be filled and shoveled off. 

Building creosote lumber dikes by Olympia Oyster Co. J. Y. Waldrip, foreman, on right. 





U O 

0) (U 


h »H 

p 5 


(0 ns 




to >, 


i ^ 


P « 


. 0) 

^ s 






1 ^ 





■^ 73 


•M C 

•s « . 

iJ •> :!^ 


. 2 "^ 


•S 2i 


S =^2 


O CM +* 


(1) CO CO 

c Sg 


X •« 


■^ S w 




:s 2 «", 




6 S ^ 


2 nJ h, 

S s g 


c m 






l^^ a 

(0 w 14 


$ 52 i 

S rt CO 

tH >1 >* 




Golden Anniversary Banquet of the Olympia Oyster 
Crorvers Association 


Organization of the Olympia Oyster Growers Associa- 


Nativity of Species — Early Laws Pertaining to 0})ster 
Land — First Land Owners 


Early Day Culling, Cultivating, Marketing, Opening and 
Packing — Inception of Diking System. 


How the **Olympia Oyster'* Received It's Name. 

Development of Grading and Diking System. 

Seeding and Cultivating Olympia Oysters 

Oyster Lands — Isolated Tracts — Reversionary Rights. 

Marketing — Advertising Program 

Sanitation — Sanitary Control 


National Recovery Administration As Applied to 
Olympia Oyster Industry. 


Enemies of the Olympia Oyster. 

State Oyster Reserves. 

State Oyster Laboratories. 


Effect of the Introduction of Pacific Oyster On 
Ol'^mpia Oyster Industry. 


Decline of the Olympia Oyster Industry 

Other Oystermen I Have Known 

Olympia Oyster Peculiarities. 


Appendix A — The Olympia Oyster and Pollution. 


Golden Anniversary Banquet of the Olympia 
Oyster Growers Association 


aglow with light and good cheer. The tables were beauti- 
fully set for the occasion. The room had filled with people 
who eagerly met each other with a hearty handclasp and 
greetings, indicating long acquaintance and a very close 


Herbert Nelson, President of The Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association, requested the members and guests 
to be seated. 

When silence prevailed. Nelson announced the oc- 
casion of the gathering: The Golden Anniversary of the 
Olympia Oyster Growers Assocfation, given on that date, 
September 22, 1955, in honor of the Olympia Oyster in- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

dustry pioneers, to which all the old timers who had 
been engaged in the oyster business were invited as 
guests. Only three were left who were charter members 
of the Olympia Oyster Growers Association, and who had 
signed the original Constitution and By-Laws thereof 
fifty years previous; all three were present, to wit: J. J. 
Brenner (age 96), George Draham (age 86), and the 
author of this book, E. N. Steele, (age 74). 

The banquet was followed by a program. Harley Post, 
Toastmaster, introduced the guests with historic refer- 
ences to many things of interest which had happened 
during the numerous years he had worked with them in 
the Olympia Oyster industry. 

As speaker of the evening, I gave a graphic review of 
the origin and development of the Olympia Oyster cul- 
ture, the harvesting and marketing, the rise and decline 
of the industry, and made numerous references to parts 
played by the different pioneers,. 

Following this, there were very interesting talks by 
Dave McMillin, Earl Brenner, George Draham, and other 
old timers, relating their experiences connected with 
the Olympia Oyster industry during the past 50 years. 


As an outgrowth of this event, the Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association decided that while the pioneers 
still lived who had personally experienced and partici- 
pated in the origin and development, (the life history, let 
us say) of the Olympia Oyster industry, it should be 
written and preserved for posterity. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Objmpia Oyster 

I, E. N. Steele was selected to write this story, largely 
because I had been Secretary of the Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association from the date of its Charter until 
December 1941; over 35 years, thus being in possession 
of the records, correspondence, and an exhaustive file of 
information that had come into my possession through 
the years, and having taken an active part in the import- 
ant incidents connected with the history of the Olympia 
Oyster. I knew the history of every area where 01ym.pia 
Oysters were grown and had known personally those en- 
gaged in the industry. The assignment was accepted by 
the author with a hope that he might put the facts to- 
gether in such a manner as to do justice, not only to the 
quality of the oyster, but to those pioneers who develop- 
ed the industry — a few resourceful and determined men 
who found an oyster growing in the waters of Southern 
Puget Sound in it's wild state, and step by step develop- 
ed the highest level of oyster culture known by man. 

The perfection attained was such that in 1929 the 
United States Bureau of Fisheries, in Docum.ent No. 1066, 
made the following comment: 

"In the southern part of Puget Sound the oyster in- 
dustry has developed an elaborate method of cultivation. 
This system of oyster culture, which is employed chiefly 
near Olympia, was developed through the utilization of 
methods used in France and by experimentation and 
observation made by the most progressive oystermxen." 

It is hoped that this book will be of interest, not only 
to future generations of those who took part in the re- 
corded events, but that it may contain sufficient 
authentic information to be of general interest. 


Organizaf iosi of f he Olympia Oyster Growers 

room on an upper floor of that historic old hotel located 
on the Southwest corner of the streets now named Capi- 
tal Way and Fourth Avenue, in Olympia, Washington, the 
Kneeland Hotel. The room was the private office of W. H. 
Kneeland, owner of the hotel, and one of the very early 
pioneers of the native oyster business. 

When? — fifty years ago. A half century has passed 
since that meeting. 

Occasion? — the formation of a group of men who had 
become interested in the native oyster, who had filed on 
and purchased oyster land, and were engaged in its de- 
velopment. Little did they realize that a meeting was 
being called which would organize this group of young 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

men into an association which would be recognized as 
the official representative of the industry for over fifty 
years. That it would during those years be called upon 
to help solve the problems of the "Rise and Decline" of 
the industry, resulting in a Golden Anniversary Banquet 
in honor of those present at that meeting, who would 
then be called the "Old Pioneers." 

Mr. Kneeland called the meeting to order. He an- 
nounced that many problems were confronting the 
Olympia Oyster industry which presented a challenge to 
the oyster growers, and which would require co-opera- 
tion between the growers, and their united effort to 
solve. Those present v/ere: W. H. Kneeland, George W. 
Draham, J. J. Brenner, Dr. George W. Ingham, J. H. 
Deer, U. G. Young, Thomas O'Neil and E. N. Steele. 

I well remember a little story told by George W. Dra- 
ham which was a convincing argument in favor of 
organizing. It had much to do with immediate action. 

A Southern darkey was driving his ox team along a 
Louisiana road when he met a white friend who had 
heard of his skill v/ith a black snake whip. "Pop that 
lizard," said the white man, and zip, off came the lizard's 

"There's a chipmunk," said his friend. A swish 
through the air and the chipmunk's family were in 

"Pretty good, Mose, that's picking them off. Now try 
that hornet's nest." 

Mose grinned, "Nothin' doin', I knows when to quit — 
them fellows is awganized." 

Those present unanimously decided to "awganize." 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

The following temporary officers were elected: Chair- 
man, J. H. Deer, and Secretary, E. N. Steele. 

Thus, an association was born. The gavel was to fall 
hundreds of times calling to order this group of men, and 
others who joined later, in the interests of the Olympia 
Oyster. Many of those old pioneers have passed on. Only 
three of them survive. But the places of the departed 
have been filled by others, in many cases by members of 
the families of the organizers. The purpose of this story is 
to cover that period of time between the organization 
meeting of the Olympia Oyster Growers Association and 
the Golden Anniversary. Also the activities of the mem- 
bers of the Association in the advancement of the culture 
of Olympia Oysters, and in the harvesting and marketing 
of that product; also the activities and accomplishments 
of this Association as the official organization represent- 
ing the Olympia Oyster industry. To do this the lives and 
the part taken by its members will be told, for the lives of 
these men and the story of the Olympia Oyster are so 
intertwined, that one cannot be told without the other. 

Following the organization meeting a constitution and 
by-laws were prepared and adopted. The following were 
charter members: 

Mud Bay: C. E. Wiberg, Chas. Brenner, J. A. Morrow, 
M. A. Simmons. 

Little Skookum: U. G Young, Daniel Lynch. 

Oyster Bay: John H. Blass; Olympia Oyster Co., By 
&. W. Draham; Olympia Oyster Investment Co.. By G. 
W. Ingham; R. Weatherhill; S. K. Taylor and Son, By E. 
3. Taylor; E. N. Steele. 


The Rise And Decline Of The 0/ijmpia Oyster 

Oakland Bay: J. H. Deer, A. L. McDonald, Frank C. 
Chester, Thomas O'Neil, J. Mitchell, B. Norman, Louis 
Larsen, J. W. Grosser. 

Others who later signed and participated in the As- 
sociation activities were: L. P. Ouellett, National Oyster 
Co., H. B. Welch, Humphrey Nelson, Herbert G. Nelson, 
Jackson and Hall, Carl C. Smith, Zandel Bros., by Oscar 
Zandel, W. J. Waldrip, Rocky Bay Oyster Co., by Peter 
Schmidt, Harley Post. 

The purposes of the Olympia Oyster Growers Associa- 
tion set out in the Constitution were as follows: 

Article I, Sec, 2,; "The purpose of this organization 
is to protect and foster the interests of all engaged in the 
production and sale of the Olympia oyster, and to pro- 
mote friendly and fraternal relations among them." 

The Constitution and By-Laws were prepared by a 
committee consisting of G. W. Draham, Thomas O'Neil, 
J. J. Brenner, John Blass, and E. N. Steele. Those elected 
as officers of the first permanent organization were: 

Officers: President Dr. G. W. Ingham, Vice President 
Thomas O'Neil, Treasurer J. J. Brenner, Secretary E. N. 

Board of Directors: George W. Draham, Thomas 
O'Neil, J. J. Deer, E. B. Taylor, John Blass. 


Tht Rke Ami Dedmt Of The 

Nativity of Species ■- Early Laws Pertaining 
To Oyster Land - Rrst Oyster Land Owners 

ifs bays inhabited by a very small oyster (Ostrea lur- 
ida) which had a most distmct and delicious flavor. It 
grew on tidelands and flats between mean high and low 
tides. In British Columbia they were found principally 
at Crescent Bay and Ladys mfth . In Washington in the 
upp«- or northern Puget Sound country at Qmlcene Bay 
and Samish Bay. In Southern Puget Sound in the vicinity 
of Olympia. where they were most abundant. 

In those days a wooden bridge crossed Budd Inlet 
near the locarLon of the present concrete bridge to 
the Westside district. In honor of an early pioneer, it 
was called the "Marshfield" bridge. Chinatown was lo- 
cated south of this bridge, alrng: the east shrre: so. in 

The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Territorial days the Chinamen took over possession of the 
oysters south of the bridge. North of the bridge and on 
both sides of the bay, the oyster beds were claimed by the 
Indians who had a village on the west side, just north 
of the bridge. The natural oyster beds south of the bridge 
are now covered by water due to the dam recently con- 
structed to create a lake for capital beautification. 

Eld Inlet (Mud Bay), Totten Inlet (Oyster Bay), Skoo- 
kum Inlet, Hammersley Inlet, Oakland Bay near 
Shelton, Washington) and South Bay were all well stock- 
ed with oysters. Willapa Bay and Willapa Harbor had 
hundreds of acres of natural oyster beds. 

In Oregon, Yaquina Bay had rather extensive beds, 
and there were several less important beds along the 
Oregon and California coasts. In fact, it has since been 
established that this (Ostrea lurida) has abounded 
on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, for millions 
of years. 

The writer has seen petrified shell of this species in 
the Museum in Juneau, Alaska, which had been found 
along the cove near there. Also, along the highway be- 
tween El Centro and San Diego in Southern California 
at a point called "Coyote Wells" a considerable number 
of petrified shells of this species have been exhumed 
from points covered by the ocean in prehistoric times. 


In the Puget Sound area, nativity, for at least cen- 
turies of time has been established by finding of great 
quantities of shell covered by the debris, rotted leaves 
and vegetation of the past. These deposits of shell were 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

always in close proximity to well populated oyster beds. 
The Indians had evidently camped on these shores, feast- 
ed on the oysters and clams from nearby beds, leaving 
the shell piles w^here they had camped. 

In fact the Indians who occupied these oyster beds 
when the first pioneers came, told stories of how they, 
the peaceful "fish-eating" Indians, (sometimes called 
"Siwash") had wars with the more belligerent Yakima 
"meat-eaters," as the^^ were called. As the story goes, 
the Yakimas would steal the canoes of the Siwash In- 
dians. The Siwashes would retreat into a cove in the 
proximity of the oyster beds; at night they would steal 
out and get their favorite foods (oysters and clams) when 
the tides were out. In time the Yakimas having satisfied 
their hunger for sea foods and taking a quantity with 
them, would return home. 

Newell Ellison of Mud Bay has given me another 
story as it came to him from generations of his ancestry. 
In the very early days there was a fierce Indian tribe 
in British Columbia who raided the Mud Bay Indians. 
They came down in their large war canoes and it was not 
only oysters and clams they were after, but they cap- 
tured women and children and took them home and held 
them as slaves. 

The native oyster played it's part not only as an incen- 
tive for these raids, but later helped in bringing the tribes 
together in friendship and brotherly love. An Indian of 
the Mud Bay locality, a Chief and a good man, as the 
story goes, died and remained dead about three days; he 
then came back to life. He said he had been in the "Hap- 
py Hunting Ground" of the Indians where the Great 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol})mpia Oyster 

Father had told him that he must return to his people 
and preach to them and get them to stop drinking and 
fighting, as they were all brothers. 

Their "back from the dead" brother then set about 
organizing a new religion which he called the "Indian 
Shaker Church". It seemed to be a mixture of Catholi- 
cism and Protestantism. It embodied the rules for 
righteous living contained in the Ten Commandments 
and the Golden Rule. This was an opportune time for 
such a religion. The "Firewater" (as whiskey was called) 
brought in by the v/hiteS; was turning the Indians into 
demons; they fought, they became thieves, and they 
v/ould violate any law of God or man to get liquor. The 
mission of this new religion was to turn them from these 
things and bring them together as brothers living in 

The "Indian Shaker Church" seemed to appeal to 
the Indian's natural instincts. It grew rapidly among the 
tribes of the Northwest. Mud Bay was the head church. 
"Mud Bay Sam" was for many years the head man, a 
sort of Priest. The converts constructed a church on the 
hill west of Mud Bay and in sight of the Olympia Oyster 
beds and each year they held a "Camp Meeting" lasting 
for a week or ten days. Invitations to other tribes were 
appealing. They announced large feasts of Olympia 
Oysters, clams and salmon. It was understood these 
would be cooked in accordance with Indian custom. 
Great crowds attended these meetings; thus the Olympia 
Oyster performed a real service, lov many Indians joined 
the Faith, and friendship was established among the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Perhaps digression would be pardoned should I 
briefly describe one of the church services held during a 
convention which I attended as a guest of "Mud Bay 

The feast of oysters, clams and fish, held out of doors, 
had been completed; the church bell peeled out the an- 
nouncement that the meeting was about to start. The 
crowd swarmed into the church which was too small to 
hold them all; silence prevailed for a few moments, then 
the meeting was opened by "Mud Bay Sam". He spoke 
in a slow, deliberate manner, using the Chinook dialect 
which was then understood by most Indians. He was 
followed by two or three other prominent Indians. Their 
talks implored their brothers to lead a better life; they 
then waited in silence for the Great Father to move them. 

On a shelf at the front of the church were many hand- 
bells; directly an Indian slowly came forward, picked up 
a bell in each hand and started a slow, up and down, 
ringing of the bells, then an up and down step and a 
chant in rhythm — another and then another followed, 
until the entire space which had been cleared, was filled. 
As it continued it became more spirited — the bells peel- 
ed louder, the chant stronger and the step became a jump, 
until the entire building shook. It reminded me of the 
pictures of a Congo Tum Tum dance. This continued on 
and on into the night; as one became too exhausted to 
continue, he or she would apparently go into a trance 
and drop down. Another would grab the bells and carry 
on. I was told that as the participant proceeded he con- 
centrated on the Holy Spirit then he began to see visions, 
and by the time he became exhausted and went into a 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

trance he was in the presence of the Great Father. 

This was the condition in Western Washington, when 
the Pioneers succeeded in penetrating the forests sur- 
rounding Puget Sound and came on to the shores of this 
body of water, where they first beheld "oceans of oysters 
and clams". Pure cool streams of water came into nearly 
every cove; the salt water was pure and unpolluted. At 
first the main tendency of the whites was to join the In- 
dians in enjoying an easy living. 

No longer a slave of ambition, 

I laugh at the world and its shams. 

As I think of my happ"^ condition 

Surrounded by Acres Of Oysters and Clams! 

And now that Tm used to the climate, 
I think that if man ever found 
A place to be peaceful and quiet. 
That spot is on Puget Sound. 

But to some, as new conditions developed, oyster cul- 
ture became a challenge in their lives which so interested 
them that they never got away from it. It is about these 
people that I am writing. 


Prior to 1889, when Vv^ashington became a State, the 
titles to all tide lands were still in the United States 
Government. The title to tide land was vested in the 
State of Washington through statehood. 

Before that time the tide land, especially where oys- 
ters and clams were found, had been occupied by the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

native Indians. For centuries the "Siwash" or "Fish Eat- 
ers" as they were called had made the oyster and clam, 
the salmon and other sea foods their principal diet. They 
had constructed their '"Teepees" on the shores of the 
more favored spots; then, as the white settlers began to 
come and villages and small towns to develop the In- 
dians found that the v/hites were also fond of sea food 
and that they could get as much as 25 cents for a basket 
of the small delicious oysters. In Olympia, Tacoma and 
Seattle it was a common sight to see the Indians on the 
street corners or in the m.arkets with a basket of oysters 
for sale. In Seattle "Chief Seattle" became quite a fam- 
ous personage as he peddled his oysters around the 
streets and markets of the city dressed in Indian blankets 
and feathered head gear. 

Some of the oyster beds had been occupied by Indian 
maidens, or Indian v/idows to whom unattached white 
settlers became "Klutchmen". Marriages under Indian 
customs were later challenged in court, especially where 
title to property was involved. 

The importance of adopting a policy to foster the 
development of our natural resources and especially the 
culture of oysters, was recognized by the first State Leg- 
islature and in 1890 the Legislature passed what has 
been known as the "Callow Act". 

The "Callow Act" only provided for the sale of na- 
tural oyster land which had been occupied and the 
oysters cultivated on and after March 26, 1890. It provid- 
ed that one who had so occupied and cultivated oyster 
land might make application for the purchase thereof 
through the State Land Office. It was necessary to have 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

surveyed the land so occupied and a map therof prepared 
and filed with the application. To encourage the industry 
a very low price was fixed upon the oyster land, but the 
State deed provided a reversionary right by the State 
of Washington to take the land back in case it was used 
for any purpose other than the cultivation of oysters. 


The maps showing these oyster lands and filed with 
the State Land Commissioner had the names of the allot- 
tees written upon them and those maps are still on file in 
that office. Thereafter, on March 2, 1895, the State Legis- 
lature passed another law known as the "Bush Act." 
This law gave any citizen the right to file on oyster land, 
whether he had previously cultivated oysters on it or not. 
However, it assured the use of the land for oyster culture 
by providing in the deed that if the land was used for 
any other purpose than the cultivation of oysters, upon 
application of any citizen, after a hearing, the deed could 
be cancelled and resold. Further, if the land, or any part 
thereof was found to be unfit for cultivation of oysters 
the purchaser might have it cancelled and take other 

And so it happens that these m.aps disclose the names 
of those applicants, many of whom were Indians. The 
Indians filed upon the land which they were occupying 
and this land in many instances was the choicest oyster 
land to be found. Some of the names of these original 
applicants and purchasers of oyster land were: Olympia 
Jim., Mary Olympia Jim, William Krise, James Tobin, 
Sandy Wohaut, Dick Jackson, Joe Gale, Jim Simmons, 


Th'Z Rise And Decline Of The Ol])mpia Oyster 

Little Charley, Mud Bay Lewis, Mud Bay Tom, Mud Bay 
Charley, George Leshi, and Mollie Peters. 

Among the names of the first white men who took up 
oyster land appear the following: S. K. Taylor, Jesse B. 
Bowman, H. R. Weatherill, A. S. Ruth, WilHam H. Knee- 
land, David H. Helser, J. Y. Waldrip, Charles Brenner, 
Z. F. Simmons, C. N. Allen, C. R. Talcott, John Blass, A. 
D. Simmons, W. J. Doane, J. J. Brenner, and E. N. Steele; 
also, the Olympia Oyster Investment Co., J. H. Deer, 
Thomas O'Neil and A. L. McDonald. Of these, it is inter- 
esting to note and make comment on several. 

W. J. Doane (com.monly known as Captain Doane) was 
better known for his "Doane's Oyster House" than as an 
oyster grower; his Oyster House became famous far and 
wide for his "Doane's Olympia Oyster Pan Roast." It 
became recognized by oyster connoisseurs as the last 
word in the preparation and service of the most delicious 
little oyster in the whole world. As a result he had many 
inquiries from restauranteurs from other cities and 
towns who wished to serve them, so he became the first 
one to discover the commercial value of the native oyster. 

J. J. Brenner, who has been in the Olympia Oyster 
business, both as a grower, a packer and a shipper, longer 
than any other living man, is affectionately known as 
''Jack". He was one of those present as an honored guest 
at the Golden Anniversary Banquet; he was at that time 
96 years of age but vigorous of mind, able to discuss any 
feature of the oyster business from it's beginning. In 
writing this thesis, I realize that no part of it can be told, 
either in the field of oyster culture, the development of 
the shucking and packing of oysters or the development 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

ot the markets, without the mention of J. J. Brenner. 
The story of Mr. Brenner's life is enveloped in, and be- 
comes a part of the story of the Olympia Oyster. 

Mr. Brenner was a Charter Member and served as 
Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors of the 
Olympia Oyster Growers Association from it's beginning 
until 1937 when he resigned and was succeeded by his 
son E. G. Brenner. 

W. H. Kneeland was an original filer upon important 
oyster land; he, Joe Y. Waldrip, Ole Hanson, and G. W. 
Draham (son-in-law of W. H. Kneeland) was made presi- 
dent of the Olympia Oyster Co., and served as such for 
many years, he also has taken a leading part in the his- 
tory of the Olympia Oyster. Mr. Kneeland passed on 
many years ago, but George W. Draham was one of those 
honored at the Golden Anniversary Banquet; at this Ban- 
quet he responded to a toast and his response was full of 
humor and stories of the old days. As president of the 
Olympia Oyster Company George has also taken an ac- 
tive part in all phases of the industry — the growing, 
packing and marketing of the Olympia Oyster. 

The Olympia Oyster Co., represented by Mr. Draham, 
was a Charter member of the Olympia Oyster Growers 
Association. George was elected vice president and di- 
rector at the first meeting and continued to serve until 
1941. The records show that during all those years he at- 
tended every regular meeting and m.issed very few 
committee meetings 

The writer of this thesis — E. N. Steele, was the third 
and youngest honored guest as a Pioneer; his age was 74 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'^mpia Oyster 

years and he has been in the Olympia Oyster business for 
over 50 years. His connection with the Olympia Oyster 
industry will creep into this story from time to time as 
it is written, because of a personal contact and particip- 
ation in the recorded events as herein set out. He was a 
charter member of the Olympia Oyster Growers Associ- 
ation and served as secretary and a director until he 
resigned in December 1941, a. total of over 35 years. 

I wish at this point to memorialize one who dedicated 
a large part of his life to the Olympia Oyster industry. 
He did not live to be honored at the Golden Anniversary 
Banquet, except in the hearts and memories of those in 

The Olympia Oyster Investment Co., (a Corporation) 
filed on very important oyster land under the Callow 
Act. Dr. George W. Ingham was it's president; as such 
he signed the Constitution and By-Laws of the Olympia 
Oyster Growers Association and was elected it's first 
president. Thereafter, year after year, he was re-elected 
as president. For thirty-three years he presided at every 
called meeting of the Association. He was Chairman of 
the Board of Directors, appointed all committees, and at- 
tended all meetings of both directors and committees. 

From my earliest recollection, the Olympia Oyster 
and the scientific development of it's culture was Dr. 
Ingham's only hobby. While he was a busy and success- 
ful Doctor of Medicine, yet he always seemed to find time 
to participate in his hobby. It was a mental and physical 
release from the strain of his busy professional career. 
He was loved by all, and the Olympia Oyster industry is 
greatly indebted to him for his progressive and active 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

part taken in it's development. He was influential in the 
development of the Standards of Health adopted by the 
State Department pertaining to the growing, opening 
and packing of Olympia Oysters. , 

George Ingham's beloved widow, now 83 years of age, 
was present at the "Golden Anniversary Banquet." Her 
presence was greatly enjoyed by all. She was always 
greatly interested in her husband's work and especially 
in his interest in the Oyster industry. She has shared his 
joys and disappointm.ents in life. The life of the wife of a 
doctor is one of waiting and watching for the return of 
the husband from some emergency call. There were no 
regular hours in the life of Dr. Ingham, especially in the 
days of horse and buggy transportation and few, if any 
hospitals. Added to this was his hobby, the Olympia 
Oyster, which in itself causes one to live by the tide book. 

Dr. Ingham loved to don his old clothes and rubber 
boots, and by personal inspection observe the oysters 
and figure out new methods of assisting nature to grow 
two oysters where only one grew before. (See picture). 

Another who took part at the "Golden Anniversary 
Banquet" was Harley Post. Harley was an electrician by 
profession. He was a public spirited man and had served 
his state as state senator. He was indeed an early 
pioneer of this part of the country. His father operated a 
livery stable in Olympia in the early 1900's. I remember 
renting a horse and buggy from him, to get down to the 
oyster beds about 1904. 

Harley was always interested in the Olympia Oyster, 
and about the year 1920 he purchased and began the 
development of beds in Oyster Bay. From that time on 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

to the time of his death, which occurred in 1956, he was 
an active member of the Olympia Oyster Growers As- 
sociation. At the "Golden Anniversary Banquet" as 
previously stated, he acted as toastmaster. 

Before we go into the activities of these men, both as 
individuals and as members and officials of the Olympia 
Oyster Growers Association, let us take a look at this 
little animal which lured them on with captivating inter- 
est. Much has been written about the lure of gold and the 
tremendous sacrifices of men in quest of it; also the hard- 
ships of the fishermen of the early days, the seal hunters 
and the explorers. What was there about this little shell 
fish, hidden away in the remote waters of Puget Sound, 
that caused these men to dedicate their lives to its de- 
velopment and distribution? 

Oysters from time immemorial, have been considered 
a delicacy. In the days of the far reaching Roman Empire, 
history records that swift runners traveled in relays 
carrying fresh oysters from Britania to the tables of Ro- 
man emperors. Nero gave magnificent banquets at 
which he ate oysters and "fiddled" as on the night of the 
burning of Rome. He called them "delicious". But Nero 
lived about two thousand years too soon to know the real 
meaning of that word when applied to oysters. If Olym- 
pia Oysters had been available he would have made them 
famous for all time; he would have proposed a toast 
something like this: 

"Olympia, the home of the Gods, Olympia Oysters, 
food of the Gods." 

The Olympia Oyster pioneers who discovered this 
delicacy did not have a background in history to adver- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

tise and proclaim the virtues of their discovery. They 
recognized it's quality and it became their ambition to 
let the people know that the "Pearl of all Oysters" grew 
in our own waters. 

Adjectives describe many things, but it is difficult to 
describe a delicate flavor with words. "Luscious, ex- 
quisite, delightful, delicate, food for the Gods, the 
aristocrat of all oysters" — all are descriptive words 
that have been used to glorify it, but after all has been 
said, the real test is in the eating; an experience in eating 
speaks more eloquently than words. 

The Olympia Oyster has been described as a "very 
small oyster." Hal Boyle the columnist once described 
them as "forty to the dozen"; in fact there are over three 
hundred to the pint when shucked. The size removes the 
objection often heard, especially by the ladies, to other 
oysters and classifies them as "delicate." 

The biology of the Olympia Oyster I shall leave to 
others. As to it's food value, chemical analysis shows 
that it abounds in valuable minerals and very little fat; 
an ideal food for waistline watchers, and as good for the 
health as the taste. 

To supply the public with such an article of food, to 
develop it's cultivation, it's processing, it's distribution, 
was the challenge experienced by these pioneers and the 
interest which they took in their work continued through 
the years. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'^mpia Oyster 


Early Day CullaEig, Cuifivating, Marketing, 
Openings and Packing - Inception of Diking 


"Callow Act" in 1890 the native oysters were not culti- 
vated; they grew wild, sc to speak. The Indians would go 
out on the beds and pick up what oysters they wanted to 
eat and dump the shells near their camp; where the tide 
flats were uneven with ridges of gravel piled up by the 
waves, the oysters were reefed and in places several 
inches deep — nothing was done to level out the beds 
or distribute more evenly the accumulation of oysters. 
The Indians accepted nature and it's bounties as they 
found them; there was always a plenty to supply their 
needs as well as early local sales which they made in 
the nearby settlements. As a general rule, transporta- 
tion was by water in their dugout cedar log canoes and 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

the oysters were carried and delivered in their Indian 

The white settlers were not satisfied with that; soon 
after they acquired title they began to find and develop 
a market — in Olympia, Captain Doane opened and oper- 
ated "Doane's Oyster House." 

The white settlers finding that picking the oysters 
from the beds when the tide was out was too slow and 
inefficientjConceived the idea of what was known as a top 
float. They took two cedar logs of equal size (about 30 feet 
long) used cedar cross pieces to hold the logs about six 
feet apart, then covered them with heavy rough lumber. 
This provided a floating platform which could be mov- 
ed when the tide was in, by use of long poles (push poles 
as they were called). They would, at low tide, mark with 
poles, tall slender fir trees about 18 or 20 feet in length 
thrust into the tide flat where the oysters were abundant, 
and take the top float to these markers on high tide. The 
top float could be held in place by poles pushed into the 
tide flat, at two opposite corners of the float. At low tide 
oysters could then be thrown onto the top float, the large 
(or marketable oysters) culled out when the tide was in 
and the small oysters again scattered out on the beds for 
further growth. The marketable oysters were then put in 
baskets or other containers and taken to market. Thus 
the first step was taken toward oyster culture. 

Culling oysters on the top float in the rain and blus- 
tery winter weather Vv^hen the demand for oysters was 
at a peak, was most difficult and objectionable and the 
need for another development soon found it's answer. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

The "Culling House" with benches on which to place the 
oysters for culling, and a fire to keep the cullers warm 
and comfortable while doing their work, was worked out. 
Large cedar logs were assembled, fastened together by 
cross pieces and covered by a floor which afforded the 
foundation for a small house called a "Culling House." 
At first these culling houses were small, perhaps twelve 
or fourteen feet wide and fourteen or fifteen feet long, 
but as time went on and the development of the oyster 
beds and demands of the market increased, culling 
became a family operation and the houses were increased 
in size with living quarters in one end of the building. 

The culling house, when completed, was anchored in 
the nearest available cove so that a top float could come 
alongside and the culling house could be more or less 
protected from wind and storm. The oysters were then 
carried in and placed on the culling tables where the 
cullers could work in comfort. The young oysters (or 
culls) were then put back on the top float and replaced 
on the beds for further growth. 

Another need for development was soon felt. — When 
the oysters were loaded on the top float they were dirty 
and some method of washing them before they were 
taken into the culling house must be found, Again, the 
cedar log, then abundant on the shores of Puget Sound, 
v/as the answer. When the top float was turned over 
before the floor was put on, the cross pieces were under 
the water and when the tide was out, the floor was nailed 
in. When the tide came in this floor was twelve to eigh- 
teen inches under the water and was known as a sink 
float; the oysters were forked into this sink float and 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol-^mpia Oyster 

washed before they were culled. While in the sink float 
they were protected from heat and cold. The sink float 
answered another purpose; after the oysters were culled 
they were put into the sink float again which enabled 
them to continue to feed and live until they were taken 
to market and also protected them from freezing or too 
much sun. 

At first, getting the oysters to town for market was 
very difficult, but as the need became felt and the pos- 
sibilities of a new freight business became apparent, 
boats were fitted up suitable for carrying the oysters. The 
boats would sometimes make two or three trips a day 
into Oyster Bay and Mud Bay when necessary to pick up 
and take the oysters to market from the many culling 
houses which were now located in said bays. 

The first boat making regular trips to Olympia with 
Olympia Oysters was an 18-foot boat called the Polly 
(owned by J. Y. Waldrip and Jess Bowman) and it was 
powered by a one-cylinder two-cycle gas engine. It was 
subject to frequent break-downs as is testified to by 
Humphrey Nelson, who (as a passenger) , spent a night 
floating around the Bay in 1902. In 1905, Captain Volney 
Young put on a boat named "Mizpa" which was a steam- 
boat about 40 feet long and used wood for fuel which was 
supplied by settlers along the shores of Oyster Bay and 
Little Skookum. In a few years this boat was outmoded 
by new boats with shallow draft, more power, and a 
greater capacity for oysters. The oysters were increasing 
very rapidlj^ and new boats came on the run as needed. 
The "Chickeree" and then the "Traveler" captained by 
Charley Cheadle, were next. The "Traveler" had an ex- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

plosion and fire and Captain Cheadle lost his life. 
Between 1910 and 1915 Captain Chris Grinrod operated 
the "Lark" and the "Hyak." The "Noble" (owned and 
operated by Ira Noble) then the "Leota" and "Dove" 
(owned and operated by John and Robert Wallin) came 
into service on the Olympia Oyster run. At one time it 
took three large, fast boats to carry the oysters from 
Oyster Bay, Mud Bay and Little Skookum, in addition 
to oysters taken on irregular runs by the larger oyster 
producers. As the industry declined this was reduced to 
two boats, then to one, and finally none. 


By the time these problems were worked out, plans 
were in progress to develop markets for these oysters. 
At first all oysters were sold in the shell. Captain Doane 
had a Chinaman who opened his oysters. Each restaurant 
or hotel had to provide their own opener; often the open- 
er had his booth fixed up in the window, thus providing 
a very attractive advertisement. The oyster actually 
went from the shell into the pan, the stew or the cocktail. 
This, in turn, created a desire by the public to use them 
as a family food. The opening process was slow and dif- 
ficult for the housewife. This need was observed by our 
old friend J. J. Brenner, who opened up a small Olympia 
Oyster House in Olympia in the year 1898; from this 
place of business oysters were shipped, both in the shell 
and opened. (See picture). 

To keep pace with these developments in taking care 
of the culling and preparing of the oysters for market, 
and the marketing of them, what was being done on the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

beds for the cultivation of oysters? 

At first the oysters vv^ere in abundant supply as nature 
had provided them. It soon became apparent that in order 
that the supply be continued, a system of taking up and 
re-planting had to be followed. Even in those days it took 
four years to grow an oyster. The beds were worked so 
that a crop would be available each year. Oyster growers 
had made observations as to where the heaviest sets of 
seed took place. Also, that new clean shell, put on the 
seed ground in June or early July, during the spawning 
season, was particularly suitable for seed to attach to; 
in fact, much better than old, dirty shell, mussels or 
barnacles. So, the shell from the opening houses was 
saved and then taken back on the beds and spread on 
higher levels for seed, and this greatly increased the seed 


By the year 1900 the oyster growers became alive to 
the value of the Olym.pia Oyster industry and with opti- 
mism they began to think in terms of extending the 
natural oyster beds. Realizing the im.portance of catching 
more seed in order to do this, observations as to what 
conditions were most suitable for seed setting were being 
made. An oyster grower in Sv/indle Cove, Oakland Bay, 
by the name of Anton Heilenburger, observed that in 
places where water was held behind a ridge of gravel, 
even though located on the tide flats on higher levels 
where otherwise no set of seed took place, seed caught in 
abundance. He conceived the idea of artificially holding 
the water by use of sunken logs or the placing of boards, 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'^mpia Oyster 

or gravel filled in between two boards, which were held 
in place by stakes. In this way a few inches of water 
would be held. Soon after J. J. Brenner began to use this 
system on Mud Bay. 

These seeds of thought soon produced more seeds of 
oysters and from it a system of leveling and diking was 
developed which eventually meant so much to the cul- 
ture of oysters. 

GAS LAUNCH NOBLE coining from Oyster Bay run loaded with 
sacks of Olympia Oysters, under Skipper John Wallin. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Objmpia Oysiet 


How tl^e "©if mpia Oysfer" Received 
if-s Name 

when I arrived in Olympia in September 1903. My first 
meal consisted of a "Doane's Olympia Oyster Pan Roast." 
I had found the spot where the manna from heaven was 
to be had. Little did I realize that through guidance of 
Providence I was to find my way into the habitat of this 
delicious little bivalve, become interested in the practical 
and the scientific development of it's culture, harvesting 
and marketing, with a summer home on the shore above 
an oyster bed on which Olympia Oysters were grown 
and which I was to own and operate for the rest of my 
life. I was then a young man of 22 years, just graduated 
from law school of the State of Iowa; on a trip to see the 
wonders of the great Northwest, the land of the setting 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

sun, with a return trip ticket but no money in my pocket. 
I was entirely undecided as to where I should put out my 
shingle. The return trip ticket was never used. 

A few days after my first introduction to the Olympia 
Oyster, a friend whom I had met invited me to join a 
small yachting party. Through some quirk of fate we 
came into Oyster Bay and pulled up alongside an 
oyster float. Lying on the float in the sun was an Indian 
girl. It later developed that she was the daughter of Dick 
Jackson, an Indian who had taken up oyster beds and 
lived there. His oyster land was adjoining other oyster 
beds of Sandy and Ti]sa Wohaut, famous old Indian 
characters, which land I afterward bought. At this mo- 
ment I am sitting at the window of the cottage where I 
have lived during many summers and reared my family. 
I am also watching our bed manager as he sets his scow 
to move seed oysters. Pictures of these oyster beds with 
dikes, both of creosote lumber and cement construction, 
and of the culling house and floats, were published in 
Document No. 1086 by the Department of Commerce, 
Bureau of Fisheries in 1929, on pages 379 to 383. 

To return to our visit with the Jackson girl. Alongside 
the top float Vv^here she was sunning was a sink float 
with a quantity of Olympia Oysters. We purchased some 
from her, took them back to Olympia, and enjoyed an- 
other feast of Olympia Oysters. As a result of these 
experiences I decided to locate in Olympia, and in due 
time had hung out my shingle and established a law 

My interest seemed to center around the Olympia 
Oj^ster and it's history; from the start I gained informa- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

tion as to its history up to that time. I met the people who 
were pioneering the industry and became attorney for 
the Indians who were engaged in litigation to defend 
their fishing rights. Through these connections the op- 
portunity to acquire about seven acres of undeveloped 
oyster land was taken advantage of and in later years 
added to. At that time the first developments herein set 
out had already taken place in the cultivation, harvest- 
ing, and marketing of Olympia Oysters. The first night 
visit I made to Oyster Bay many lights were visible in 
the southern, or upper flats, of Oyster Bay. Men were out 
gathering oysters on the low night tide. I learned that 
when the winter harvesting time was on the lights from 
the oyster harvesters so resembled a town that it was 
called Oysterville. 

One of the questions that came to me was "Why was 
the oyster called the Olympia Oyster." All references I 
could find in Government reports referred to them as 
Native Western oysters. From one who had participated 
in it, I was told the following story: 

After Washington was given it's statehood in 1889, 
the question arose as to where the Capital should be lo- 
cated; Olympia had been the Territorial Capital. How- 
ever, other cities both east and west of the mountains, 
became contestants to be made the Capital of this new 
and rapidly growing state. The people of Olympia were 
thus brought together and worked as a unit to save 
Olympia as the Capital City. It was put to a vote of the 
people and the contest became very spirited. The people 
of Olympia got their heads together and planned a cam- 
paign; they arranged for public meetings in many of the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

most populated points in Eastern Washington, supplied 
themselves with a goodly quantity of oysters and the 
battle was on. Their arguments why the Capital should 
remain in Olympia were many and forcefully stated, but 
the clinching argum^ent was the oyster dinner following 
the meeting. They created a warmth and friendly spirit 
and the oysters were so well liked that much publicity 
was given, not only to the merit of the arguments, but to 
the merit of the oysters. 

I was told that the oyster dinners were closed by 
recital of this little jingle: 

Said one oyster to another 

In a tone of pure delight 

I will meet you in the kitchen 

And we'll both get stewed tonight. 

Olympia won the election, and the oyster dinners 
were given the credit. From that time on, the oysters 
were known as "Olympia Oysters." 

Doubtless the fact that Olympia was the closest city 
to the heart or center of this new industry and the cen- 
tral shipping point, also had something to do with adop- 
tion of that name. At that time Olympia Oyster beds 
covered that area nov/ known as Capital Lake, claimed in 
Territorial days by the Chinese, and also the area on both 
sides of the Bay, extending North to Priest Point Park, 
formerly claimed by the Indians. For sanitary reasons 
these beds soon had to be abandoned and the use of the 
oysters for food was prohibited. On the west side, across 
from the present Capital buildings, there was a favorite 
spot where "Gloomy Gus" the tramp had his favorite 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

camp. He was not concerned with the health regulations 
and he did love Olympia Oysters. He would slip out on 
the night tide, secure a supply of Olympia Oysters and 
the next day he was King of Shanty Town, as he ban- 
queted his friends. This continued for years after I came 
to Olympia. 

For over a half century in publicity matters the Olym- 
pia Oyster and the City of Olympia have proclaimed 
each other's virtues. At a Chamber of Commerce dinner 
it was stated that enough advertising and newsprint 
about Olympia Oysters and Olympia had been published, 
that if placed end to end would encircle the world. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Development of Grading and Diking Sysf'em 

early development of the cultivation of Olympia Oysters 
to the point of discovery of the method of catching more 
seed by the creation of pools of water behind some logs 
or lumber placed in such a way that the water would be 
retained at low tide. This idea developed very rapidly 
from the experimental stage. It was soon found that the 
area could be increased by leveling down the beach be- 
hind the dike so that the water covered it. This led, in 
turn, to the creation of a dike by driving into the tide- 
flat short boards of uniform length, driven perpendic- 
ulary. These boards were one inch in thickness, usually 
twelve inches wide, and in length depending on the de- 
sired level the oysterman wished for his water-level. 
Having decided the desired water level, stakes were 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

driven firmly into the tide flat and a board, 12 to 16 ft. in 
length, placed against and nailed to these stakes parallel 
with the tide flat, and perfectly level. This level would 
be approximately six inches above the ground level de- 
sired, as that had been found to be the best depth of the 
water to be retained. Then the short boards would be 
driven perpendicular, tight against the horizontal board, 
and against each other, making a dike two inches in 
thickness. This dike could be extended as far as was 
practical, considering the contour of the beach. 


The area inside this dike would then be filled and 
leveled with dirt from the shore side. Sometimes the dike 
would require a fill of two or three feet to bring it up to 
the desired level. To do this log floats would be used. The 
place where the cut was to be made would be marked 
by stakes when the tide was out. When the tide came in, 
floats would be brought and set in place by the use of an- 
chor poles thrust into the bottom. When the tide went out 
again workmen, using what was known as a "mud fork" 
dug down to the desired depth and loaded it onto the 
floats. On the high tide this "oyster mud" would be 
floated out to the area to be filled behind the dike. The 
bed would eventually be level both where filled and 
where cut down. This was a slow and tiresome process, 
for to be a success the entire area behind the dike had 
to be level as a floor, carrying a water level of approxi- 
mately six inches in depth to protect the oysters from the 
heat of summer and the cold of winter. On some beaches 
as many as five dike levels have been used. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


This system of diking increased the production of oys- 
ters very rapidly. Practically all oyster culturists 
adopted it. In the summer season when the tides were out 
in the day time, Oyster Bay, Mud Bay, Oakland Bay and 
Little Skookum were alive with diking activities. The 
areas where oysters thrived in their natural state were 
greatly expanded. The Olympia Oyster Co., The Olympia 
Oyster Investment Co., the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co., and 
some of the smaller growers carried this work into the 
winter, even though the work had to be done at night, 
as the tides in winter only go out far enough at night. 
Through the years the oyster areas were expanded until 
there was a total of approximately four hundred acres 
of oyster land under dike. 


It is difficult to comprehend the great amount of 
work done, and the length of time it took. The dike work 
was slow, as it had to be done by hand labor at low tide. 
The tides only permitted from four to six hours each day 
of construction. Then the material for the next day's 
work had to be prepared, loaded on floats and taken out 
on high tide. From fifty to one hundred feet of dike per 
day, depending on the height of the dike and length of 
the tide, was a good day's work for four men. In later 
years some machinery was used by the Olympia Oyster 
Co. and others of the larger companies, who developed 
machines on large floats with drag lines and scrapers, 
and loaded the fill mud onto large dump scows. Other 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

oystermen adopted smaller types of labor saving equip- 
ment. But at best, the work went very slowly. I recall one 
instance, the leveling of what is known as "Dike One" of 
The Olympia Oyster Company, in Oyster Bay. It is, I 
believe, the largest oyster dike in existence, about fifteen 
acres. They had a flotilla of oyster equipment and work- 
ed summer and winter. Yet it took between three and 
four years to do the leveling. (See picture). 


As I sit here I am looking out over my own eighteen 
acres of dike land. It has five dike levels, terraces follow- 
ing the curved beach and the natural contour of the tide 
flat. The dikes are from two feet to four feet in depth. 
Most of these dikes have been built three or four times. 
In the very early days with untreated lumber, then re- 
placed by dikes using lumber treated with creosote. This 
lumber had been permeated under pressure with creosote 
to withstand the action of teredoes, a boring mollusk, 
which eat up and destroy untreated lumber dikes in two 
or three years. In many instances in rebuilding a dike it 
has been found advisable to change and re-locate part of 
it, to prevent deposit of mud by the tides. 

Then it was found that cement would harden under 
water. A permanent dike seemed to be the thing, even 
though it's construction was slow and costly. The advant- 
ages and disadvantages were discussed in many 
Association meetings. Fifteen years had elapsed since I 
had started to put in any creosote lumber dikes, and they 
needed replacement, so I started to rebuild them with 
cement. First the form, or about one hundred feet of it, 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol})mpia Oyster 

would be put in, using untreated lumber. This had to be 
strong enough to hold the cement. Then sand, gravel, and 
cement would be loaded on floats or scows and taken out 
to where it was to be used. At first, a hand operated ce- 
ment mixer was used. Later power driven mixers 
speeded the construction. The cement was poured into 
the forms at low tide, carefully leveled on top, and by 
the next tide, it would be hardened enough to be ex- 

This work continued year after year. Even in summer 
there are only an average of twenty days each month 
that the tides are low enough to allow work on the beds. 
It took thirty five years, beginning each year with the 
first daylight tides about the first of April until the dark 
tides in September, working from four to ten men, to do 
the job. 

Another thing that delays the dike work is the weath- 
er. Especially in the spring, one may have several loads 
of rpud, or if constructing dike, several floats filled v/ith 
material, and a storm suddenly come up and play havoc. 
The mud Vv^ashes from the scows or material washes off 
and goes scooting down the bay. The storm sometime 
lasts for days, and all that can be done is to wait for 
better weather. 

The investm.ent that is necessary to accomplish this 
work is tremendous. My own investment in development 
of the dike area has been approximately five thousand 
dollars per acre. I would say that the average cost of 
construction of all diked land is over four thousand dol- 
lars per acre. I have about one-half mile of cement dike, 
fourteen inch base, eight inch top, four feet high; numer- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Oly^mpia Oyster 

ous cross dikes and lower dikes of cement, and at least 
one mile of creosote lumber dikes. 

I have given this rather in detail because it is my per- 
sonal experience, and I know the facts. During this time 
I was an official of the Olympia Oyster Growers Associa- 
tion, made inspection trips to the beds of most of the 
growers, and heard the experiences of others. This ex- 
ample is typical of other growers experience and costs. 


The life of the oysterman, and especially the pioneer, 
was and is a rugged one. When asked why I have stayed 
with it, my answer is "because I love it." And I believe 
that is true of every oysterman. Everyday there is a new 
challenge in life; new problems to work out. The out-of- 
door and on the water life is wholesome and healthful. 
And most of all, the Olympia Oyster is a food one is hap- 
py to produce. It has made millions of people delighted 
and full of praise to those who produce it. I would not do 
otherwise if I had it to do again; my life has been a happy 
one, much more so than if I had been occupied in distaste- 
ful employment, though I might have accumulated more 
material wealth. I believe this feeling is shared by all 
old timers in the oyster business. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


Seeding and Cylf'ivating Olympia Oysfers 

been done, what then? 

The Olympia Oyster is four to five years of age when 
harvested. The higher level dikes are generally the seed 
dikes. Each oysterman has studied his ground and knows 
where seed sets the best. The deeper levels usually grow 
a better marketable oyster, a fatter and more firm oyster, 
with a beautiful velvet rim. The Olympia Oyster (Ostrea 
lurida) is a bi-sexual animal; the organism of both male 
and female being within the same shell. In the spring, as 
the waters warm, the male sperms are thrown in- 
to the water. Later, generally in early June, the eggs 
which have been produced and held inthe shell are fertil- 
ized by male sperms which the oyster has taken in 
as it feeds. The oysterman then knows spawning time 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

is approaching. As he opens an oyster here or there on 
the beds, he finds first a quantity of white, milky sub- 
stance, which he know^s to be the first development stage. 
Later, as it grows and becomes dark, the oysterman 
knov/s the spawning season is at hand, and that the set- 
ting time, usually starting early in July, is about three 
weeks av/ay. The embryo when released from the shell 
into the water is a free swimming oyster for about eight- 
een days. 

At this stage of its development the oyster is so small 
that you cannot see it without a microscope. A fish or 
something generally swallows it by mistake before it be- 
comes visible. Only one in a million is lucky enough to 
grow up and be stewed. It swims around by means of its 
microscopic cilia, or eyelashes. If it knew its future it 
would continue to do this the rest of its days, but it 
starts to develop a shell, sinks to the bottom and fastens 
itself to a shell or some other type of cultch with a bit 
of glue which it carries with it for that purpose. This 
process is called seed setting. 

The oyster plays a useful role because he's edible. 

The way he side steps birth-control is nothing but incredible. 

The sons and daughters he begets are numbered, by the myriad. 

They're known as spats the little brats throughout their baby 


The Way he multiplies his kind he merits no apologist. 
And keeping track would wreck the mind of any geneologist. 
Of course as parents do, he likes his kiddies, sad or humorous. 
But he cant name the little tykes, because they're too numerous* 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

The oysterman knows that if he is to get maximum 
setting he must have his seed ground covered with a 
suitable cultch. In the early days it was observed that 
clean shell was the best. These were obtained from the 
oyster opening houses where the shell had been saved 
and piled for this use. So the oysterman would secure the 
amount he needed, bring it to his beds and spread it upon 
the ground he had cleaned for use as a seed bed just as 
near the time the setting took place as he could, so that 
the set would take place before the shell became silted 
p.nd dirty. 


In time the demand for the shell for cultch became 
greater than the supply. A biologist, Dr. A. E. Hopkins, 
was successful in his experiments with a new type of 
cultch, later known as the "Hopkins' Collector." He took 
egg crate fillers, dipped them in a thin solution of ce- 
ment, lime, sand, and water; then let them dry slowly. At 
the proper time these were placed on the seed ground. 
The surface was clean and rough enough for the baby 
oysters to cling to. These were found to be a highly ef- 
ficient cultch, and millions of them were used. Also fish 
net dipped in cement and lath dipped in cement, dried 
and placed on the seed ground, have been used. 


After the set of seed had taken place, it became the 
practice to leave it for about two years until it had taken 
on sufficient growth to be moved. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

At this point the moving takes place. The oysterman 
has been marketing his oysters and has dikes that are 
cleaned up ready for a new crop. 

The same method is used in moving seed as is used in 
moving oysters. The seed oysters are removed from an 
area large enough to set the scow. The seed is forked by 
hand onto the scow v/hich is lifted by the incoming tide 
and then moved to the place where they are to be spread, 
which has been marked by stakes. The oysters are scat- 
tered from the scow at high tide, and the seed have found 
a new home. 

These oysters are left for two to three years to mature 
and fatten. Then in the winter months when markets are 
available they are taken up on floats again, taken to the 
culling house where they are washed in the sink float, 
placed on the culling table, the marketable oysters re- 
moved and put in another sink float to await the boat to 
take them to the opening or shucking house; the culls, 
which include many small oysters, are taken back and 
placed on the beds to mature for market. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Oyster Land Titles - Isolcsted Tracts -- 
Reversionary Rights 


Time: 2:00 o'clock p.m., June 21, 1915. 

Place: Chamber of Commerce Rooms, Olympia, Wash- 

Purpose of the Meeting. A special meeting of the 
Olympia Oyster Growers and Dealers Association to con- 
sider the question of Oyster Land titles. 

Mark Reed, of Shelton, Washington, who was at that 
time a member of the State Legislature, was unanimous- 
ly chosen to act as honorary chairman. 

The subject for consideration was one of great import- 


The Rise And DecVme Of The Ol})mpia Oyster 

ance to the Olympia Oyster growers, and one which had 
been a major part of the program of the Association for 
some time. 

Mention has been made that the majority of titles to 
Olympia Oyster land were issued under the "Callow 
Act", passed in 1891. This law permitted the applicant to 
select and buy the part he desired. Naturally the best 
natural oyster ground, and the boundaries were general- 
ly irregular. In many instances there were irregular 
tracts between the oyster land selected and the beach or 
meander-line. There were, also, irregular and isolated 
tracts between different growers. As the system of level- 
ing and diking had developed, these tracts, the title to 
which remained in the State, becam.e very important in 
the development of their beds. They needed the beach 
gravel for filling, and the land back to the meander line, 
which generally follows the line of mean high tide, for 
access to their oyster beds. Also, the isolated and irregu- 
lar tracts, if owned, could be graded or filled and enable 
the adjoining dikes to be straightened out and made 
easier to operate. After a long period of effort on the part 
of the committee of the Association, the legislature had, 
in 1915, passed a law permitting the oystermen to pur- 
chase these isolated tracts. The procedure to be followed 
out by filing of maps and abstract of title with their ap- 
plication, so that the rights of adjoining owners would be 
protected, was provided for in the law. This meeting, 
through the leadership of Mark Reed, was to aid and 
assist the oyster growers in filing their applications to 
purchase and buy adjoining isolated tracts. This meeting 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

was followed up by others, and finally all concerned 
were taken care of to their satisfaction. 


As time went on the investment of the Olympia Oyster 
Growers in their grading and diking of oyster land be- 
came enormous. As I have stated, the deeds to the oyster 
land issued under the "Callow Act", both the original 
deeds and the deeds to the isolated tracts, had a rever- 
sionary provision under which the State could, if certain 
conditions existed, reclaim the oyster land. The State 
would have to make settlement with the owner, but the 
owners felt uneasy at making these investments without 
owning the fee simple title. Committees were appointed 
to see if legislation might be passed to authorize the State 
to deed outright to owners of "Callow Act" titles. This 
was finally accomplished and, as shown by the Session 
Laws of 1927, page 546, Sec. 140, this was authorized 
and the procedure set out. Most of the oystermen per- 
fected their titles under this act. Again co-operation won 
out through the combined efforts of the oystermen 
through their organization, the Olympia Oyster Grow- 
ers Association. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Marketing — Advertising Program 

Oysters, the opening, packing and sales of the product 
had been receiving careful attention. The leaders, men 
who had extensive beds, which they had been busy de- 
veloping, were first in entering that field. Their first 
thought was the opening (sometimes called shucking) 
and packing and selling of their own oysters, but as time 
went on, it was realized that there were many small 
growers who did not produce enough oysters to pay to 
have an opening house and that it would be economically 
sound to have fewer sales centers. At first the small 
growers sold their oysters in the shell, packed in two 
bushel burlap sacks, shipping direct to small opening 
and wholesale places in surroun.ding cities such as Seat- 
tle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. 
As markets were extended, the local packing plants 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

found their own oysters not sufficient to fill the demands 
and began to negotiate with the smaller growers' often 
purchasing their entire season's supply. Oysters would 
be delivered in the shell packed in the two bushel burlap 
bags, and the packing house would either sell and ship 
them to the packers in other cities or open them, pack 
in pint, quart, half -gallon or gallon cans, and ship to their 

As production increased the supply began to exceed 
demand. This resulted in each local packer advertising 
its own brand both locally and in more distant places. 

But again as tim.e went on the supply began to ex- 
ceed the demand. Before I go into the manner in which 
this was met, I must speak of the development of the 
local packing plants. 


J. J. Brenner and the Olympia Oyster Co. were and al- 
ways have been, the leaders in the packing plant and 
distribution field. J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. was a corpor- 
ation and has always done business under that name. 

The first J. J. Brenner plant was erected on piling in 
Olympia about the year 1893. At that time, the road on 
West Fourth St., consisted of a plank causeway con- 
structed on piling, the tide running in and out of the 
upper cove, where "Capital Lake" is now located. 

This plant was soon inadequate, so Jack began his 
plans for a new, larger and better equipped building. 
This was constructed on the corner of West Fourth and 
Simmons Street. It was a large building, well equipped 
for a plant of those days, and would accomodate about 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

thirty openers. It had a roomy office, well furnished; an 
ice box sufficient in size to refrigerate all oysters on 
hand at any time, either in the shell or opened stock; a 
large packing room where shucked stock was washed, 
packed and prepared for shipment; and storage room 
overhead for storage of box lumber, cans and containers. 
This was an up-to-date, and much above the average, 
oyster plant for that time. 

At the rear of the plant was a shipping dock where 
the boats bringing the oysters could land, unload the 
oysters, and load any freight that was to be sent back to 
the beds. 

This plant satisfied the needs of the J. J. Brenner Oys- 
ter Co. until about the year 1927. Jack Brenner had been 
dreaming about a new and up to the minute packing 
plant for years. That dream came true in 1928. His 
company owned the adjoining land, so he moved the old 
plant over onto it and continued to use it while construct- 
ing the new one. By that time the dredging in the Bay 
had been done and all the lots adjacent to the channel in- 
cluding the Brenner property, had been filled. The new 
building was a two story concrete structure, and was 
large and modern in every detail, constructed especially 
for the sanitary opening, packing, and shipping of oys- 

This plant was used until 1951 when for many reasons 
it was decided that the packing plant should be located at 
the heart of the oyster production on Oyster Bay. By that 
time the transportation condition had entirely changed. 
Cement pavements had been constructed almost to the 
point where it was decided to build. Trucks had come 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

into use, which made the transportation by water slow 
and inadequate. Communication by phone, wire, or mail 
was as easy as from town. By opening at the beds the 
oysters were delivered in the shell directly to the plant, 
opened, and the shell left handy for use on the beds, 
leaving only the finished product, the oyster packed 
ready for the market, to be delivered by truck to the 
point of shipment. 

So, the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. met these new condi- 
tions by the construction of a fine new modern plant on 
the shores of their own beds near the head of Oyster Bay, 
where they are carrying on their business, producing and 
marketing a fine product, and are a substantial factor in 
the oyster business. (See picture). 

The Olympia Oyster Co., Inc., from the beginning 
was in the front ranks in its packing house program. 
They owned substantial oyster beds, were progressive in 
the development of Olympia Oysters, and operated their 
own boat to transport their oysters to Olympia where 
they had constructed an opening house on Fourth Street, 
only one block east of the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. plant. 
Here, also, in the earlier days the water ran under their 
plant, which was constructed on piling. They also had 
their private dock for unloading their oysters. The "Old 
Timer" Geo. W. Draham w^as president of the corpora- 
tion. He also had dreams of having the latest equipment 
known to the industry for the sanitary and efficient 
opening, washing, and packing of Olympia Oysters. 
These dreams were realized when, in 1924, a concrete 
building was erected and equipped with the latest and 
best known machinery used in an opening plant includ- 


The Rise And DecUne Of The Ol^mpla Oyster 

ing refrigerating rooms and a sterilizing plant. This 
building is still in use, being occupied by the "Olympia 
Oyster House," where their purveying of Olympia Oys- 
ters has become as famous as in the days of "Doane's 
Oyster House." After the inspection of this plant by the 
United States Department of Health, it was pronounced 
a model oyster opening and shipping plant. In fact, these 
officials told me while I was in Washington D. C. that the 
oyster plants here were superior to most of those on the 
East Coast, and that the Olympia Oyster Co. plant and 
the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. plant were so well equipped 
and so clean that they looked more like a laboratory 
than an oyster house. (See picture). 

In 1925 the United States Bureau of Fisheries recog- 
nized this and commented as follows in Document No. 
1066, referring to the Olympia Oyster industry in the 
Southern part of Puget Sound: 

"The shucking houses are built according to specifica- 
tions established by the United States Health Service, 
and in many respects surpass these requirements. The 
rooms where oysters are opened are sunny; the benches, 
tables, floors and walls are of cement; in respect to clean- 
liness and compliance to the highest standard of sanitary 
requirements, the condition of the Olympia shucking 
houses is unsurpassed in any other oyster producing 

As the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co., due to changed condi- 
tions, found it advisable to change the location of its 
packing plant to Oyster Bay, so for the same reasons the 
Olympia Oyster Co. constructed a plant near the head of 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Oyster Bay, and within a mile of the J. J. Brenner plant. 
It is modern in every respect. 

You may be asking what it means to say that these 
two plants are modern in every respect. The first packing 
plants were modern when they had a bench upon which 
to pile oysters, carried in by hand from a boat moored 
to a dock near the plant. I have quoted from the United 
States Bureau of Fisheries bulletin as to the standards of 
sanitary requirements in 1925. Today the word modern, 
when applied to oyster packing plants, has taken a new 
meaning. In addition to the standards of those days, mod- 
ernized by better design and equipment, the plant is fully 

The oysters are carried from the boat on a moving 
belt and dropped onto shucking tables. The shell, instead 
of being carried or wheeled to the shell pile are dropped 
through the table and carried by a moving belt to the 
shell pile. Manual labor has been reduced to a minimum. 

These two companies have owned adjacent Olympia 
Oyster beds, have operated packing plants close together, 
have been operating as neighbors, during the entire life 
of the Olympia Oyster industry. Likewise J. J. Brenner 
and Geo. W. Draham, have been members of the Olym- 
pia Oyster Growers Association, have co-operated with 
its members thoughout its existence, have served on 
many important committees together, and were close 
friends as they shared honors as "Old Timers" at the 
Golden Anniversary Dinner given by the Association in 
their honor. 

In Oakland Bay, near Shelton, Washington, Joe H. 
Deer, Thomas O'Neil, A. L. McDonald, Frank C. Chester 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

and others, had substantial oyster beds. These were 
all progressive men, were co-operative with the other 
growers and were members of and took a substantial 
part in the work of the Olympia Oyster Growers Associa- 

It has been stated, by Dr. Trevor Kincaid, a recognized 
authority, that in the earlier days Oakland Bay was the 
most prolific oyster seed ground in the world. Transport- 
ation from there to the packing plants in Olympia was 
very difficult. Not long after the commercial value of 
Olympia Oysters was discovered J. H. Deer built and 
operated an opening and packing plant in Shelton which 
met the need of the oyster growers in that locality. Later 
D. R. Helser operated an Olympia Oyster opening and 
packing plant in Olympia, which he supplied mostly 
with oysters from his own beds in Oyster Bay. 


Another critical period in the history of the Olympia 
Oyster had been reached, and as always, the old pion- 
eers, through the medium of their representative organ- 
ization, were about to meet it. 

During the year 1921 it became apparent that there 
was a surplus of Olympia Oysters. Competition in the 
markets was very keen, and in December, a drop in price 
was threatening. Investm.ents had been very heavy and 
cost of production increased so that a price war would be 
disastrous to the industry. Dr. G. W. Ingham, President of 
the Association, realized the situation, and this meeting, 
held on the evening of Dec. 14, 1921, at the Shelton Hotel, 
was called for the purpose of considering it. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 


It was really a wonderful meeting, attended by thirty 
growers. It was preceeded by a social meeting in the ho- 
tel lobby. An orchestra played as we marched into the 
dining room. An oyster banquet was beautifully served; 
Olympia Oysters from soup to nuts, and all the trim- 

President Dr. Ingham called the meeting to order 
and presented one of our hosts, Joe Deer, to give the 
address of welcome. The minutes recite, and I personally 
remember, that he welcomed us in his jovial manner. Joe 
Deer left us many years ago, and one can only say that 
he was indeed a good man, well beloved by his fellow 

President Ingham responded to the welcoming ad- 
dress and he was at his best. I can see and hear him yet, 
as he pleaded for united rather than divided effort, for 
co-operative effort through the Association; for faith in 
the future and in the Olympia Oyster, the most wonder- 
ful food created by the Almighty and cultured by man. 
All that was needed was that the public be told of its vir- 
tues, and demand would increase beyond our ability to 

His address was an inspiration to us all. 

George Draham followed with a strong presentation, 
following the subject as it had been presented by Dr. 
Ingham, and strongly recommending a proposed adver- 
tising campaign. The Secretary, E. N. Steele, who was 
Chairman of the Advertising Committee, was called upon. 
I can remember that I stressed the importance of united 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

effort, and told of the picture which we have hanging in 
our kitchen as a family guide. It is of a bunch of bananas, 
and reads "Remember the banana. Every time it leaves 
the bunch it gets skinned." 

Mark Reed, of the Olympia Oyster Investment Co. 
then, in a logical and well presented statement, recom- 
mended that no cut in price be made, but that we should 
create a demand and the demand would raise the price. 
He recommended that as of January 1922 ten per cent of 
the gross sales be set aside for that purpose. 

The Advertising Committee then presented J. Wil- 
liam Sheets and Fitzherbert Leather, of the J. William 
Sheets advertising firm of Seattle, who presented an 
outline of the type and extent of advertising they pro- 

And so was born the advertising campaign which was 
started on January 1, 1922. It was the beginning of one of 
the most unique and effective campaigns of its day, cre- 
ating comment far and wide. And it was effective. The 
price of oysters was soon raised to meet the cost of ad- 
vertising, which was one dollar per sack, and the price of 
Olympia Oysters never went back to the previous level. 
In fact, it drew the attention of the Eastern oyster grow- 
ers. In 1924, the Oyster Growers Association of North 
America were in about the same trouble we had been in. 
Hiving been Chairman of the Olympia Oyster Advertis- 
in Committee, and active in its camjaign, I received a let- 
ter from Dr. Radcliffe, then an official in The Oysters 
Growers Association of North America asking me, at 
their expense, to come to New York and meet with their 
Directors, and tell them of our abvertising experience. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

This invitation was accepted. I was met and conducted on 
a tour of the oyster areas of the East, went out on dredges 
in Chesapeake Bay, in New Jersey, Virginia, and New 
York, visited some of the largest packing plants, and 
ended by attending the directors meeting in New York. 
There an advertising cam^paign was started by initial 
subscriptions of approximately fifty thousand dollars. 
On that trip I met many of the leading oystermen, and 
in Washington D. C , I met men in the Fisheries Depart- 
mxent and the U. S. Department of Health, who were very 
helpful when later on I was called upon to make other 
trips representing our own oyster industry. 

The Olympia Oyster advertising program v/as unique 
in every respect. It was for the most part limited to the 
western states. This was because of the competition with 
the Eastern oyster, especially east of the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and excessive express rates. In fact, it was limited 
to the Pacific Coast States. In those days advertising was 
not as expensive as it is today. Now half-hour programs 
on T. V. cost more than this small industry, at one dol- 
lar per sack, (about ten per cent of gross receipts) could 
afford to spend in one year. But the subject matter was of 
such interest to the public that it received broad coverage 
from a news and general interest standpoint. Such able 
writers as Dr. Trevor Kincaid contributed most interest- 
ing articles on the history of the Olympia Oysters, its 
merits as a food of the finest flavor and food value. 
These articles, with illustrative pictures, were published 
by such papers as the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Ore- 
gon Journal, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles. As 
the interest spread, other writers wanted information 


The Rise And Decline Gf The Olympia Oyster 

and pictures for publication in other newspapers and 
magazines. Our advertising committee was kept busy 
furnishing material for these writers. 

Soon the food economists began to publicize recipes 
and demonstrate them in cooking schools. 

Each year the advertising committee laid out very 
carefully its advertismg campaign. It estimated the 
quantity of oysters that should be marketed the follow- 
ing year. It contacted the markets, found out where it 
could spend the advertising funds to best advantage 
and with the advice of the advertising managers prepar- 
ed the material. This was reviewed at a meeting of the 
Association. When agreed upon and approved it was put 
to a membership vote. Thus, all were satisfied and knew 
just how their money was to be spent. The records show 
that the assessment of one dollar per sack was regularly 
paid for many years. 

In some places we used roadside billboards. The ho- 
tels and sea-food eating houses were supplied with beau- 
tiful banners, and recipe folders were distributed by the 
thousands. Newspapers and magazine ads were used 

The campaign was started off each year by making 
the first week in September "Olympia Oyster Week." 
For many years, this was done by a proclamation signed 
by the Mayor of Olympia and under the official "Seal of 
the City of Olympia." During that time I happened to be 
a member of the City Commission of Olympia for ten 
years, serving as Mayor about four years. I have before 
me some of those proclamations addressed: 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

"To the Citizens of Olympia, and to all 
Fellow Citizens, governing Executives 
and Officials of the Sovereign States 
of our glorious Pacific Coast." 

The Proclamation, after extolling the virtues of Olym- 
pia Oysters as a food, set aside said week as Olympia 
Oyster Week throughout the Northwest for "feasting, 
celebration, thanksgiving and good cheer in memory of 
the occasion." 

"Signed at Olympia, End of the Oregon Trail, Capitol 
of the State of Washington." 

Signed by the Mayor and City Clerk, and attested by 
the City Seal. 

These proclamations were beautifully gotten out and 
sent to hundreds of City, County, and State Officials, 
and to the editors of all papers. They were well received, 
and much publicity was given. 

This program was carried out for about fifteen years; 
by that time the demand became greater than the supply, 
so the advertising was tapered off. During these years the 
gavel fell many times, as meetings of the Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association were called to order to consider 
their advertising program. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'^mpia Oyster 


SdE^itation — Sanitary Coi^itrol 


for consideration was co-operation with Dr. Simpson, 
head of the State Department of Health, in working out a 
manual to co-ordinate with the National Department of 
Health for Sanitary Control. 

Sanitary Control by the State was not a new subject. 
It had been under discussion many times before. The 
National Public Health Service had been working on it 
since about 1908. There had been some typhoid fever 
traced to sewage polluted shellfish in the East over the 
years. During the fall and winter of 1924-25, outbreaks of 
typhoid fever occurred in New- York, Washington, Chi- 
cago and several other cities. As a result, the matter of 
Sanitary Control became a very live issue. The Surgeon 


The Rise And Decline Of The OZpmpia Oyster 

General of the United States Public Health Service call- 
ed together a conference of Federal, State, and municipal 
authorities, and representatives of the shellfish industry, 
to work out a plan of Sanitary Control for oysters. 


The Olympia Oyster Growers from the start had been 
in favor of some plan of control. When the epidemic in 
the East broke out it had repercussions in our Olympia 
Oyster industry, even though our Sanitary conditions 
here were very good. The law had prevented the sale of 
oyster land near any city, and there were but few inhab- 
itants along our oyster bed shores. Yet the need for 
systematic control was recognized. 

At the time of this meeting the Federal Public Service 
had prepared a tentative manual and furnished copies to 
the Health Department of each state. Each state was 
asked to prepare ready for adoption, a manual in which 
minmum requirements would be comparable with the 
minmum requirements of the Federal manual. At this 
Association meeting a committee was appointed to work 
with Dr. Simpson in formulating a manual for the State 
of Washington. 

This com.mittee was appointed consisting of Dr. G. W. 
Ingham, Geo, W. Draham, and myself. This work requir- 
ed numerous meetings, both in Olympia and in Seattle. 
The passage of legislation was also necessary. 

Finally the U. S. Health Service developed and adopt- 
ed uniform standards, and the Health Department of the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol\)mpia Oyster 

State of Washington, with the co-operation of the oyster 
growers, adopted its shellfish-sanitary manual. Since its 
inception no disease has been attributed to the consump- 
tion of shellfish. It has stood the test of time without 
change. On September 9, 1 954, another meeting was held 
in Washington D. C, called by the U. S. Public Health 
Service, to consider the revision and strengthening of the 
Sanitary Control system.. Mr. Dave McMillin of the 
Olympia Oyster Co., representing the Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association, and Malcolm Edward and myself, 
representing the Pacific Oyster interests, were in attend- 
ance at that meeting. The final draft, both of the U. S. 
Public Health Service Manual and of the State of Wash- 
ington Manual are now being drafted, with the aid and 
co-operation of the entire oyster industry. 


Space prevents detailed information on this subject. 
The fundamental requirements are as follows: 

1. It commences at the grass roots, so to speak. The 
purity of the water in which the oysters are grown. The 
State, upon application of a grower, takes samples of the 
water over the applicant's grounds. If found to be pure, 
fit for the taking of shellfish for marketing, he is granted 
a State Certificate. This certificate must be renewed an- 

At the same time it is issued the U. S. Public Health 
Service is notified; this certificate holder is given a num- 
ber, which must appear on each container in which 
oysters from the certified beds are packed. This identifies 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

them even when shipped interstate. Thus, if the oysters 
are picked up by officials, for inspection to determine 
whether they have been packed in accordance with re- 
quirements, their source may be easily traced. 

2. The culling houses and opening houses are also in- 
spected. They must meet sanitary requirements and 
specifications, and be kept clean. 

3. The opening and washing equipment must be of 
non-corroding material, such as stainless steel, and be 
sterilized daily. 

4. In the washing and packing of oysters clean sani- 
tary methods must be used. 

5. The health of those working with oysters must be 
determined to guard against the employment of any 
worker who might be a typhoid carrier. 

6. Requirements for adequate and suitable toilet fac- 
ilities are made. 

7. The State Department of Health is responsible for 
the inforcement of the manual, and its officials make 
frequent checking visits to the shucking plants. They 
also make tests of the water over the oyster beds to as- 
sure its purity. 

In fact, the growing, opening, packing and shipping of 
oysters must be done in a sanitary manner, with sanitary 
equipment, the entire operation being specifically de- 
scribed in the manual. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 


Mcitsoncsl Recovery Adminisf rcs^bn as Applied 
To fhe OSympia Oyster Bndystry 

fronting the Olympia Oyster Industry. In fact, it was 
confronting the entire country. Many men and women 
who had been our potential customers were now in the 
bread line. The savings of many thousands of our more 
prosperous people were tied up in the banks and build- 
ing and loan associations, whose doors were closed. 
Stocks and bonds had greatly depreciated in value. It 
was a time when the necessities of life were the rule, and 
luxuries or higher priced foods were out for the masses 
of our people. 

On the other hand, Olympia Oyster growers and 
packers had been for years carrying on a program of de- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

velopment far beyond their earnings, and many of them, 
including myself, had been borrowing heavily to con- 
tinue their improvement vsrork. Each individual had his 
problems. He could eat his own oysters, but he could not 
eat them all. He must sell some of them to survive. But 
without customers — what? Everyone was desperate to 
find a way out. 

The Federal Government was desperately trying to 
find ways and means to recovery. Congress had passed 
what was called the National Recovery Act. This provid- 
ed for a National Recovery Administration, whose 
purpose it was, among other things, to set up reasonable 
prices for all commodities, industry wide, and adopt rules 
of fair competition. It was a gigantic effort to give every 
producer a fair opportunity to keep his product in the 
market on an equal basis with his competitor. The set up 
was that each industry should have its own Code, pre- 
pared with the aid of the Administrator and adopted, 
first by the industry then approved by the President. 


On June 16, 1933, the "National Industrial Recovery 
Act" had been approved by President Franklin D. Roose- 

Date, August 24, 1933 

This meeting of the Trustees of the Olympia Oyster 
Growers Association, was held on August 24, 1933. Presi- 
dent G. W. Ingham, J. J. Brenner, E. G. Brenner, O. C. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Hanson, Mr. Van Epps, and E. N. Steele were present. 
The minutes of that meeting disclose that the preliminary 
draft of the National Oyster Code was read aloud and dis- 
cussed. Also, a letter was read from Howard Beach, 
President of the Oyster Growers and Dealers Association 
of North America, and one from Dr. Radcliffe, executive 
secretary of said Association, suggesting that the Pacific 
Coast Division of the Oyster Industry send a representa- 
tive to the National Oyster Convention to be held in New 
York City, at which time it was proposed to adopt a Na- 
tional Code for the Oyster Industry, 

In the discussion it developed that it would be 
advisable to have our industry represented at that meet- 
ing to advise them of our problems on the West Coast, 
that the code adopted be made to harmonize with our 
needs. It was announced by E. N. Steele, who was at that 
time President of the Pacific Coast Oyster Growers As- 
sociation, that said Association felt the same way about 
it, and he thought it would pay half of the cost. It was 
moved by J. J. Brenner and unanimously passed that E. 
N. Steele be selected as a delegate to said convention; 
that $400 be provided to pay his expenses, one-half there- 
of to be refunded by the Pacific Coast Oyster Growers 
Association. Further that a telegram be sent at once to 
the President of the United States that "the Olympia 
Oyster Growers Association was behind the N. R. A. 
movement 100%, and would co-operate through the Na- 
tional organization." 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 



Thus, the Olympia Oyster Growers Association and 
its members became participants in the great movement 
of a great people of a great nation to survive and to bring 
back prosperity in this country. 

To give the details of the preparation and adoption of 
the Code and of its administration would be a long story, 
so I shall only record the high lights. 

I shall never forget my trip to this convention. A few 
days before I started, the N. R. A. Eagle had been adopt- 
ed symbolizing the movement. It had been received with 
great enthusiasm by the people. The press was full of it. 
Banners showing the Eagle were displayed everywhere 
along the way. Window displays of the Eagle and an- 
nouncing the adoption of the N. R. A. by the store or 
factory were seen in every window. The country was 
alive with enthusiasm, and hope. This cross section of the 
country inspired me, and gave me material to inspire 
the convention when I was called upon to address it at 
its opening meeting. But, after that meeting it was ser- 
ious business. 

The organizing into industry groups, then subdivid- 
ing into Division groups, was accomplished and finally I 
found myself where I belonged. For one week I was in 
that great hotel, which was the headquarters of the con- 
vention. I ate there, I slept there whenever I had an 
opportunity. Long hours were devoted to the work. I did 
not leave the hotel for one week more than for a quick 
walk around the block. First, in co-operation with the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

oyster growers of the East Coast, those things which ap- 
plied to the entire industry were settled and adopted. 
Then the specific provision which applied to the Olympia 
Oyster and the Pacific Oyster, consolidated under the 
Pacific Coast division of the Oyster Code, were worked 

Finally, it was ready for drafting. I returned home 
and made my report. After receiving the first draft, it 
was reviewed and finally adopted. I became its adminis- 
trator. The latter part of September, 1933, the following 
was received from Washington, D. C: 

"Official recognition of E. N. Steele of Olympia, as a 
duly elected member of the code authority for the fresh 
oyster industry has been announced by the National Re- 
covery Administration. Steele was approved as a member 
for the Pacific Coast section of the oyster industry, which 
under NRA regulations, is a division of the fisheries in- 
dustry. Approval of members of the code authority for 
the North Atlantic, and southern section, also was an- 

This now sounds like a small matter in the history of 
this industry. But it is not. We lived it for many years. It 
was a daily concern in our lives. All business transactions 
were governed by it. Some liked it. Others did not. But, 
taking it as a whole, by the time it was ended by court 
proceedings we were again on the way to prosperity. 
Who can say but that the stabilization of prices and the 
rules of fair competition during this period was of much 
value to our own industry as well as to the whole coun- 
try. At least, we participated in it, and it is a part of our 



The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


Enemies of the Olympio Oyster 

viewpoint of a biologist, but that of an observer. 

Star fish are fond of any oyster, but the Olympia Oys- 
ter is its favorite. 

Man must have some kind of a knife with a blade to 
open and take the meat from an oyster. Not so with a star 
fish. Nature has provided it with a more direct method. 
It first wraps itself around the oyster, or if it is feeding 
on Olympia Oysters several of them at one time. It has 
thousands of very small but tough and strong tentacles. 
These have suction cups on the ends. These, after they 
are attached to the oyster, begin to pull in such a manner 
as to be a strain on the abductor muscle of the oyster. It 
resists and holds its own in this tug of war for a time, 
then gradually weakens, and the shell begins to open. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol})mpia Oyster 

The stomach of the star fish, if its victim is a large oyster, 
protrudes into the shell and entirely envelopes the oys- 
ter, devours it, then draws in its stomach and moves on to 
its next victim. Olympia Oysters being very small, are 
more easily worked upon, and they are devoured rapidly. 

Some years starfish are very numerous in the oyster 
area. One summer I saw an army of them. Many thou- 
sands, as they attacked a bed of Olympia seed oysters on 
the State Oyster Reserves in North Bay. As they devour- 
ed their oysters, with the aid of the then incoming tide, 
they would move on a few feet, settle down and enjoy 
their next victim. These reserves were not patrolled, so 
needless to say the State had no seed to sell that year 
from those reserves. 

Starfish have no power of locomotion when the tide is 
out. So they must move from one hunting ground to an- 
other and do their feeding when the tide is in. For that 
reason they are easy prey for the oyster growers. He can 
easily see them and destroy them. I remember an exper- 
ience once when I learned how not to destroy them. I 
pulled them apart, tearing the fingers of their star from 
each other, and threw them on the ground. Later I passed 
that way and found that each of those fingers had lived, 
and that new fingers v/ere forming on each one of the 
pieces, where the wound had healed. I later was told that 
each finger had its own heart and circulatory system. 

The oyster growers watched for and destroyed the 
starfish. Many were used for fertilizer. So, as the years 
have passed they have become fewer until there are not 
many seen in Oyster Bay. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 


Some kinds of ducks are also fond of oysters, and the 
Olympia Oyster, due to its small size, causes it to 
say "You are my oyster." Although I have seen them 
swallow full grown oysters, yet they prefer the smaller 
seed oyster, or better yet, the single oysters that have 
been put back on the beds after the larger ones have 
been culled out for market, and the smaller ones, mostly 
single oysters, put back to grow. I have seen large flocks 
of these ducks, often watching from a distance the spread- 
ing of these culls, fly to the spot where the oysters had 
been re-planted. By the time the oyster grower had ar- 
rived at his culling house with the scow or float from 
which the culls had been spread, the ducks would have 
arrived at their new feeding ground and disappeared in 
the water. They would come up with an oyster in their 
bills, swallow it with a gulp, then dive down again for 

The losses to the oyster growers becam.e very heavy, 
and a problem. These predators were mostly "Scooters" a 
duck commonly known as a "coot". They were not gen- 
erally used as food, as the flesh had a strong fishy taste. 
But the "Blue Bill" which was classified as an edible 
duck, or a game bird, also was fond of oysters. Hence, the 
game authorities prevented the shooting of any ducks, 
even in protection of our own property. 

Finally, the oyster growers of Olympia Bay came to 
an agreement with the Game Warden that if the oyster- 
men would employ a patrolman who would only shoot to 
scare the ducks away from the oyster beds he would co- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

operate. So on May 25,1914, the Oyster Bay Growers had 
a meeting and decided to form a new Association to be 
known as the "Oyster Bay Growers Association." Their 
principle objects was to establish a patrol to protect 
their oysters from theft or other predators, meaning 

On July 28, 1914, they adopted a Constitution and By- 
Laws, which were signed by the following charter mem- 
bers: E. B. Taylor, Mgr. of S. K. Taylor & Son; J. J. 
Brenner Oyster Co., by J. J. Brenner; E. N. Steele; Olym- 
pia Oyster Co., by G. W. Draham, Pres.; Olympia Oyster 
Investment Co., by G. W. Ingham, Pres.; D. R. Helser; 
J"ohn H. Blass; J. B. Bowman. 

This organization employed the ex-deputy sheriff of 
Thurston County William Vance, as its patrolman. It was 
maintained until 1925, a period of eleven years; the ex- 
pense being borne by self assessment of its members. 

At one time the Federal Game Warden, who was 
questioning the legality of shooting ducks out of season, 
asked that the gizzards ol the ducks be sent to Washing- 
ton, to see if they were eating oysters. Over one thousand 
were sent, each with information as to the date and time 
of day, stage of the tide and where killed. These gizzards 
showed a content of from one to twenty-seven oysters in 
each one, depending largely on when and where shot. 
The quantity of oysters per year eaten by ducks was esti- 
mated to run over one thousand sacks. Following this 
experiment, a permit was granted to carry on the patrol. 

But upon change of administration the Federal Game 
Protector challenged it again. He made a trip out here, 
and the conditions were explained as we took him over 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

the beds. His contention was that a gas automatic explo- 
sion, blasting every fifteen minutes, attached to piling 
over the oyster beds, would keep the ducks away. A De- 
partment regulation to that effect was issued. It was 
tried out. For the first few days the ducks flew away. 
When they found it was harmless they became more bold, 
and in a month they paid no attention to it. So the patrol- 
man began shooting again. He was arrested, but never 

Since then, ducks have diminished in number, but are 
still considered as predators. 


Crawfish do not eat oysters. Their damage to oysters 
is indirect. They live in the ground, and are found in the 
tide flats where the bottom is sandy. They dig in and by 
5^ome mechanism, apparently the motion of the fins on 
the side of the body and the tail, they push the sand 
back as they advance. This accumulates in a little pile 
where the crawfish entered the ground. The tunnel, about 
one inch in diameter, extends sometimes ten or twelve 
feet. The crawfish lines the tunnel, as it digs, with some 
hard substance. 

Crawfish are harmful to oysters in two ways. First, 
after a dike has been constructed, a crawfish may go 
down and under the dike. The ground outside the dike 
being lower, the crawfish, probably to its own surprise, 
comes to ground surface on the lower side of the dike. 
The upper dike being filled with water, it begins to flow 
through the crawfish tunnel. At first it looks like a bub- 
bling spring, but soon the force of the water breaks 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

down the walls of the tunnel. The flow becomes larger 
and larger. It makes a noise like a cascade. The water 
from the upper dikes carries with it a great quantity of 
soil from the upper dike,, as well as the oysters, and de- 
posits the entire mess on the oysters in the next dike 

Such an experience, and there were many of them, 
required major repairs, causing expenses and hard labor. 

Second, in some more level areas, crawfish are very 
numerous. Humphrey Nelson, who has a considerable 
amount of this kind of ground, says there may be as 
many as twenty crawfish per square foot. In that case, 
the quantity of sand thrown up, a little pile by each craw- 
fish, becomes a large quantity in the aggregate. The tides 
flatten out these piles, and gradually the oysters become 

The loss became so heavy to many growers that they 
became discouraged and abandoned their ground. 
Not so with Humphrey Nelson and his step-father, U. G. 
Young. They solved it by covering the ground with lum- 
ber or plywood, then covering that with three or four 
inches of gravel. This prevented the sand from coming 
up; their yield of oysters increased by fifty per cent. 


The so called drill is a species of the snail family. The 
native snail is about one and a half inches long when ma- 
ture. I have never seen one drilling an oyster, although 
I have heard it said that they do drill seed oysters. But, 
a real drill, one that has the equipment and the ability 
to drill a nice little round hole in the shell of an oyster 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympla Oyster 

and the desire to do so, has been brought into this coun- 
try with seed of the Japanese oyster, now commonly 
known as the Pacific Oyster. It is about the same size as 
the native snail. 

This species of drill abound in Japan. It has some pow- 
er of locomotion when aided by the tide. I have often seen 
them protrude a sort of foot and give themselves a shove 
as the tide was moving, then roll forward with the tide 
for several feet. 

It also has limited power of locomotion by using its 
body in the place of legs. By an outward thrust of the 
body it pushes itself forward about one-half inch, then 
it repeats the operation. Its walking distance is limited 
to a few feet a day, and it cannot walk in mud. But it can 
move from oyster to oyster, and it does not need to hur- 
ry. It takes great care in selecting its next victim. It has 
an instinct which guides it to an oyster with a thin shell. 
When it has found its oyster, it then selects the spot 
where the shell is the thinnest. The thinner the shell the 
easier to penetrate it. 

Due to the drilling equipment, this animal has some- 
times been called a "marine dentist". Hov/ever, before 
it starts working on its victim I have never heard it whis- 
per in a sympathizing voice, ''Now this is going to hurt a 

The file-like drill is located at the end of a tiny neck 
which protrudes from the body of the drill. After the 
drill has bored the hole through the shell, the neck is 
pushed into the oyster and by use of a suction method the 
oyster meat is conveyed into the drill as food. If the neck 
is not long enough to reach all the oyster meat, it with- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

draws and leaves the oyster to die. As soon as it dies, its 
shell begins to open and crabs finish the job. 

The Olympia Oyster Growers met this new enemy 
with their customary fortitude. They employed drill 
pickers, and in other ways kept them down to where 
they could get along and live with them, and still pro- 
duce oysters on a commercial basis. 


The slipper shell may be termed as an enemy of the 
Olympia Oyster, although it does not kill the oyster. At 
one time Eastern Oysters were brought in from the At- 
lantic Coast. The slipper shell came with them and 
thrived here. 

It has a shell that when grown, is about two inches 
across, and holds to shell or rock to which it had become 
attached by a suction cup. Its body is held into the shell 
by a sort of foot which hooks under a partition in the 
shell, just as the foot fits into a slipper. Hence, the name 
— slipper shell. 

The shell is of such quality that the spawn of other 
animals do not attach to it. But one slipper shell will set 
on top of another, until there is a half -moon of them, 
from five to ten inches in length. 

These animals may eat the same food as oysters. In 
some beds at times may take up as much room as the oys- 
ters. When the oysters were taken up to cull for market, 
the slipper shells were culled out, but caused extra ex- 
pense for culling and disposing of them. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


All of these enemies of the oyster have been met by 
the oyster growers, and kept within bounds, by persist- 
ence and hard work. But during these years the 
population of the west has been increasing, and with it 
industries have been creeping in, building their process- 
ing plants upon our shores, and using our waters as a 
sewer in which to dump their waste. Many of them are 
making use of the tim.ber resources which surround our 
waters. In the beginning our waters were clean and pure. 
The East Coast and its industrial centers had their trade 
waste, but in the beginning the growers had no thought 
of those conditions ever existing here. The shores of our 
inland waters were sparsley settled. Those with vi- 
sion of the future could not have foreseen the present 
conditions. Industrie? with trade waste have slowly but 
steadily closed in upon us. They now threaten to do that 
which should never be permitted in a country such as 
ours: Cause the destruction of our God given natural re- 
sources, our oysters, clams, sea foods, and all eatible 
marine life. This subject is of such grave importance that 
it will be covered in a separate chapter. (See Appendix A) 
It will also be referred to in the chapter covering the de- 
cline of the Olympia Oyster industry. May we hope that 
the decline may not mean the death. We hope for proper 
control of trade waste which would mean that co-exis- 
tence may result; the survival of both natural resources 
and industry. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Ol}fmpia Oyster 


State Oyster Reserves 

of Washington attained statehood, were made up of pio- 
neers. They must have appreciated very much our natur- 
al resources, and especially the native oyster. It is always 
easy to view and appraise the wisdom of legislation from 
the standpoint of history from results of said legislation. 
In the case of oyster legislation by our pioneer legisla- 
tures it is difficult now to see how it could have been im- 
proved. We owe a debt of gratitude for the wisdom, fair- 
ness and practical manner in which it was treated and 
covered by legislation meeting the needs of that day, and 
the years to come. 

First, they passed the Callow Act, which has been 
previously referred to. This basic law gave those who 
had, prior to March 26, 1890, occupied oyster land and 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol\^mpia Oyster 

cultivated, and continued to cultivate oysters thereon, 
the right to purchase, at a low price and on easy terms, 
the oyster land they were cultivating, limited to forty 
acres. Then the Bu?h Act was passed, not requiring pre- 
vious occupancy. This was followed by a law setting aside 
and reserving from sale, certain tideland that had not 
been purchased. These areas were and still are known as 
"State Oyster Land Reserves." 

Laws were then passed creating a State Oyster fund, 
into which went any moneys received from the sale of 
oysters and oyster seed, and legislative appropriations 
for the use of the State Fisheries Department in the de- 
velopment of the State Oyster Reserves were made from 
those funds. 

Realizing the importance of the oyster growers being 
able to secure seed the State Fisheries Department en- 
tered into the era of the development of the Olympia 
Oyster industry by using the system of diking and grad- 
ing certain parts of said reserves which were known to 
be located v/here a natural set of seed was abundant. 

This was fortunate, for it was soon learned that this 
species of oysters would only grow in certain limited 
areas, which I have mentioned; also that seed could not 
be moved successfully except between certain areas 
where the water was the same in salinity and mineral 
content. Some oystermen had good ground for growing 
and fattening their oysters, but no seed ground. Hence, 
it was necessary to get seed at a reasonable price to con- 
tinue their development. This was done while L. H. 
Darwin was Fish Commissioner between 1921 and 1931. 

The State first developed by diking and grading the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Oyster Reserve in Oakland Bay. This proved to be the 
best seed ground of any they have ever developed. The 
seed could be moved successfully from these Reserves to 
any oyster ground in Oyster Bay, Mud Bay, Little Skook- 
man Bay or South Bay. 

The seed set in the Oakland Bay Reserve dike was 
tremendous. I have heard Dr. Kincaid say that he thought 
it was the heaviest setting ground, and the most reliable 
set, of any place in the world. He has visited about every 
oyster producing country and is fully informed on their 
oyster production. I, myself, have examined these beds 
year after year in the early days, and found the dikes 
filled with seed. Each spring the State would sell thous- 
ands of bushels of seed to oyster growers. Then they 
would again cultch the beds with shell, and in two years 
it would produce another large crop of beautiful seed. 
This continued until the pulp industry came to Shelton. 
The said beds are nov/ entirely non-productive. 

Other reserves were improved at Clifton, Mason 
County, but were less valuable. The set was not as heavy, 
and the water conditions different than in southern Pu- 
get Sound. After many unsuccessful attempts to move 
the seed, it was abandoned for Olympia Oysters, and la- 
ter leased for Pacific Oyster culture. 

In some places, especially in the Hood Canal district 
on Puget Sound, the State Fisheries Department main- 
tains reserves for the use of the public, and permits a 
limited take of oysters per person for their use. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 


Steste Oyster Laboratories 

industry had to learn the hard way the secrets concern- 
in,^ the propagation and culture of their product. They 
had to learn by observation, and by trial and error. They 
had no oyster biologist or oyster laboratories for many 
years. But, although they learned from observation 
when and where the o^^ster larvae set, and what areas 
produced the best marketable oysters, yet they had a 
keen interest in the scientific and biological problems. 

About the year 1P30 the oyster growers succeeded in 
arousing the interest of the State Department of Fisher- 
ies and Game; Charles R. Maybury, Director, and Charles 
R. Pollock, Supervisor of Fisheries. A plan was worked 
out under which the^'- secured the loan from the staff of 
the United States Bureau of Fisheries of A. E. Hopkins, 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

an eminent aquatic, Biologist. Through co-operation of 
the oyster growers a laboratory was fitted up in the cove 
in Oyster Bay adjoining the oyster beds of Harley Post. 
An assistant to Dr. Hopkins w^as furnished, Mr. H. H. 

This laboratory was conducted from the spring of 
1931, continuing through 1935. Its primary purpose was 
to m.ake an analysis of spawning activities and setting 
habits of larvae with reference to environmental condi- 
tions. Bj^ developing such information it was hoped that 
oyster growers might be assisted in the catching of suf- 
ficient seed oysters to restore and expand the industry. 

This laborator}^ was close to the beds of this writer. 
Those years of patient and very scientific study were of 
the deepest interest to every Olympia Oyster grower, and 
of great value to the industry. The oyster growers co- 
operated in the work, furnished boats, assisted in taking 
samples, and in any other way they could. The Olympia 
Oyster Growers Association had many meetings with 
Dr. Hopkins, and each one was made to feel that he was 
a part of the operation. When it was completed and Dr. 
Hopkins was sent to other fields of investigation, each 
oyster grower felt a deep sense of appreciation for his 
fine accomplishment. 

Dr. Hopkins, at the termination of his work, made an 
exhaustive report of his studies, which was published by 
the U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Fisheries, 
under the title "Experimental Observations on Spawn- 
ing, Larval Development and Setting in the Olympia 
Oyster, Ostrea lurida," by A. E. Hopkins, Bulletin No. 23. 

In a foot note, after expressing his thanks to the state 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

officials for their co-operation and assistance, he made 
the following comment: "It is a pleasure to express my 
thanks to the growers of Olympia Oysters, all of whom 
have willingly given every possible assistance. I am part- 
icularly indebted to J. J. Brenner, E. G. Brenner and D. I. 
Ginder, of the J. J. Brenner Oyster Co.; Ole Hansen and 
J. S. Waldrip, of the Olympia Oyster Co.; G. W. Ingham, 
Olympia Oyster Investment Co.; E. N. Steele; Charles 
Brenner; W. J. Waldrip; J. B. Bowman; J. H. Post; and 
the late Minnie Blass. 

"A large part of the credit for this work is due to H. H. 
Adams, who served during 5 years as a most capable and 
efficient field assistant." 

This work was so efficiently and completely done that 
from that time on it has been accepted and followed as 
the last word on the subject covered. 

Dr. Hopkins recently passed away, after many years 
of scientific service in other oyster growing areas on the 
East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Recent m.ention of 
Dr. Hopkins and a forceful commemoration to his ability 
was published. The statement was made by another 
eminent biologist, one who is well qualified to appraise 
the work of another scientist working in the sam.e field. 
It was made by Thurlow C. Nelson, Ph., D., D. Sc, Bio- 
logist, N. J. Division of Shell Fisheries, reporting pro- 
ceedings of the Oyster Growers and Dealers and National 
Shellfisheries Convention held in Miami Beach, Florida, 
in August, 1956. Speaking of progress in oyster culture 
in Florida since establishment of the Division of Oyster 
Culture in 1947, 1 quote: 

"Legislation to effect this was drafted with the aid of 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

the late Dr. A. E. Hopkins, an outstanding service to the 
southern oyster industry which climaxed the contribu- 
tions of one of the world's foremost oyster scientists." 

Space will not permit a review in detail of this report. 
It is fully supplemented and illustrated by pictures and 
graphs. Anyone interested in the detail of the work, can 
secure a copy from the Superintendent of Documents 
Washington, D. C. But I feel that it has such basic value 
and interest to those who may read this article that I 
should copy from it the following findings: 

1. Grounds on which Olympia Oysters are grown are 
surrounded by dikes to retain a few inches of water 
over the oysters at low tide. The maximum range of tide 
at this place is about 20 feet, the average about 14 feet, 
and most grounds are located between the minus 2 foot 
and plus 4 foot tide levels. 

2. Average water temperature varies between a win- 
ter low of 6 to 9 degrees C. and a summer high of 18 to 
20 degrees C. In summer the temperature is highest when 
the tide is low, and the shallow water often reaches 30 
degrees C. while during winter low tides occur at night 
and a temperature as low as about -2 degrees C. has been 

3. Salinity of the water on the oyster beds at high tide 
varies, in Oyster Bay, between about 26 p.p.m. in winter 
and about 29 p.p.m. in summer; in Mud Bay the range is 
about 27 to 29.5 p.p.m. Salinity of the surface water, how- 
ever, is subject to greater variation. 

4. Hydrogen-ion concentration varies throughout the 
year from a pH of 7.7 to 7.8 in midwinter to about 8.4 in 
late spring. It is probable that prolific growth of algae in 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol\)mpia Oyster 

spring, in the presence of fertilizing substances brought 
in by the winter rains, account for the high pH at this 

5. Market-size oysters bear broods of 250,000 to 300,- 
000 larvae. The number of larvae per brood depends 
generally upon the size of the maternal oyster. 

6. Generally each oyster produces one brood per sea- 
son, but in some years as many as 50 percent bear second 
broods while in other seasons as few as 75 percent of 
the individuals spawn as females. Abortions of embryos 
frequently occur, however. 

7. Spawning of functional females begins in the spring 
when the minimum, or high tide, temperature reaches 
12.5 degrees to 13 degrees C. 

8. Most broods of larvae are produced during a period 
of about 6 weeks at the beginning of the spawning sea- 
son, though an occasional gravid individual may be 
found as late as October. 

9. An average period of 10 days is required for de- 
velopment within the branchial chamber from the time 
the eggs (diameter, lOOu to 105u) are extruded from the 
gonad until straight-hinge veliger larvae (length of 
valves, 180u) are discharged. 

10. As compared with oviparous species, development 
of the larvae of O. lurida is very slow, and the age of the 
various stages may be stated approximately as follows: 1 
day, blastulae; 2 days, gastrulae; 3 days, trochophores; 4 
days, straight-hinge veliger larvae completely enclosed 
by valves 110u-120u long; 10 days, veliger larvae with 
valves 180u-185u long. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

11. The free-swimming period is 30 or more days in 
length and varies from year to year, probably according 
to water temperature. 

12. Larvae set most frequently on an horizontal sur- 
face, while fewest catch on upper horizontal surfaces. A 
definite relationship exists between angle of surface 
and number of spat caught. 

13. This setting beha^^ior of larvae is not due to a di- 
rective influence of light but to the swimming position 
whereby the larval foot projects upward. 

14. A special type of manufactured spat collector, de- 
signed to take advantage of these habits, is now in use 

15. In Oyster Bay the setting season consists of two 
distinct periods, 6 to 8 weeks apart. Secondary periods of 
setting may occur between these two or after the second. 

16. Setting seasons in Oakland Bay and Skookum Inlet 
are similar to those in Oyster Bay. In Mud Bay seasons 
are shorter and maxima occur at different times. 

17. Times of maximum frequency of setting fall with- 
in periods of spring tides when tidal range is greatest. 

18. On cultch suspended from floats most spat are 
caught at a distance of 1 to 2 feet from the surface. This 
appears to be one reason why high grounds catch the 
most seeds. Floats filled with cultch are now being em- 
ployed commercially to take advantage of these results. 

19. Few spat are caught at low tide, most when the 
tide is about half high. Frequency of setting appears to be 
associated with swiftness of current. 

20. Setting of larvae begins in the third tidal period 
following that during which spawning starts. Setting 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

later in the season appears to depend upon larvae remain- 
ing in the water from earlier spawning as well as upon 
larvae resulting from late spawning." 

After Dr. Hopkins finished his work the laboratory- 
work was carried on by the State of Washington, Fisher- 
ies Department. One of these laboratories was located at 
Burley Lagoon, Gig Harbor, Washington. A new and well 
equipped laboratory was recently constructed and is now 
in use, located near Quilcene on Hood Canal. 

The State has also maintained a laboratory during a 
part of each year at Nahcotta, Willapa Bay, to serve the 
Pacific Oyster growers of that area in their biological 



The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'})mpia Oyster 


Effect of leitrodsiacfiosi of Pacific Oysters On 
Olympia Oyster Industry 

gigas) to this date is another story. Yet, in completing 
this story of the Olympia Oyster it is necessary to explain 
briefly its relationship and effect upon the Olympia 
Oyster industry. 

During the early years, prior to 1921, the Eastern 
Oyster (Ostrea virginica) had been shipped into the west, 
both in the shell for transplanting purposes, and as fresh 
opened oysters. The transplants were not a commercial 
success either in V/illapa Bay or in Puget Sound. The 
waters on our coast are so different from those on the 
Atlantic Coast, that there was great mortality, and the 
oysters that lived did not grow or fatten satisfactorily. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol'^mpia Oyster 

As to the opened fresh oysters, while many people 
coming from the east preferred them, yet transportation 
in those days was slow and refrigeration methods poor. 
About the only Eastern oyster coming into the Puget 
Sound country came during the Christmas period, when 
a group of wholesalers would join in the shipment of one 
or more refrigerated car loads. But as the Olympia Oys- 
ter became more popular, and production increased to 
where demands could be supplied, heavy losses were sus- 
tained by spoilage of part of the car load shipments 
before they were disposed of. Therefore, the need was 
felt for another type of large oyster that was more hardy 
than the Olympia Oyster, that did not require the high 
state of cultivation necessary to grow the Olympia Oys- 
ter, and that could be grown on our own tide flats where 
the native or Olympia Oyster were in abundance. 

Briefly, after som.e experimental test plantings, it was 
found that seed from Japan of species Ostrea gigas, 
could be successfully grown here. The first commercial 
plantings were made in Samish Bay in 1921. At first, 
these oysters were accepted very slowly on the markets. 
There were none planted in the Olympia Oyster areas for 
many years. The Olympia Oyster remained the favorite, 
even though the price was much higher. Finally a few 
test plantings were made and in 1936, these oysters had 
grown to maturity and spawned. A set of seed took place, 
mostly along the upper side of the diked areas. Any that 
had caught among the Olympia oysters were culled out, 
and those above the dikes were disposed of. There has 
been no set since that time in southern Puget Sound, 
either on or near the Olympia oyster beds. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

As heretofore pointed out, the Olympia oyster has a 
very delicate organism, and is susceptible to environ- 
mental changes. Recently, as the trade wastes have re- 
duced the Olympia Oyster population of the beds, por- 
tions of them have been planted with more hardy Pacific 
oysters hoping that they may survive and enable the oys- 
ter grower to continue to operate. If the Olympia Oyster 
should become extinct, the Pacific oyster will cover the 
areas which have been so carefully, laboriously, and at 
such a great expense, built up by its pioneers, especially 
adapted for the Olympia Oyster. These developments, so 
important to the culture of the Olympia Oyster, the grad- 
ing and diking, are of little value to the culture of the 
Pacific oysters, as they seem to thrive exposed to the 

So I would conclude that the Pacific oyster has had 
no detrimental effect on the Olympia Oyster, but does 
stand by as a substitute in case the decline of the Olympia 
Oyster should continue into its extinction. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Oly^mpia Oyster 


Decline of the OEympia Oyster Industry 

realistic attitude that I approach old age. It has come 
about so slowly, yet so surely. I am sure my old time 
friends and colleagues join me in this; the years have 
been filled with work but that work has meant satisfac- 
tion and happiness. The development of the Olympia 
Oyster as related herein constituted many challenges 
during the younger years of our lives. We were in those 
years always able to let out another link, so to speak, take 
on the extra work it involved, and through co-operative 
effort, meet the challenge. But as we have increased in 
years, the subject of our life's work has declined. The 
reason for this decline may be as futile to relate as the 
reason for old age. Yet, this historic story of an industry, 
a natural heritage given to the people by God for their 
good and pleasure, would not be complete without it. 
It was entrusted into the hands of those I have written 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

about, to develop, protect, and hand down through post- 
erity to future generations. In reporting our management 
of that trust, and that the decline has not been the fault 
of said trustees, I shall set out the facts. 

I have already stated that from time to time pests, 
enemies of the Olympia Oyster, have appeared and how 
these pests have been treated as a challenge, the same as 
pests of upland crops. They have been kept down or de- 
stroyed. The star fish, the cup or slipper shell, the drill, 
caused a lot of work, but were overcome to an extent 
that they did not materially reduce the size of the crops. 

The oyster growers feel that the decline has been 
caused by pulp mill waste from the mill at Shelton. To 
substantiate this belief a separate article has been pre- 
pared, citing authorities by biologists standing high in 
their profession and appearing in Public Documents, 
which co-ordinate with the opinion of the oystermen 
acquired by experience and observation. It will be found 
at the conclusion of this thesis. Appendix A. 

As to the decline of the Olympia Oyster industry, I 
refer to a bulletin No. 49-A, published by the State of 
Washington in April, 1949. It was prepared by Donald L. 
McKernan, Vance Tartar, and Roger Tollefson, State 
Oyster Laboratory, Gig Harbor, Washington, and is en- 
titled "An investigation of the decline of the Native 
Oyster industry of the State of Washington, with special 
reference to the effect of Sulfite Pulp Mill waste on the 
Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida). 

In his introductory remarks the author expresses in- 
debtness to Drs. W. M. Chapman and A. H. Banner, as 
well as to Messrs. John Glud and Lief Wahl for making 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

available their unpublished manuscripts; also to W. J. 
Waldrip for important data; to Professor Trevor Kincaid 
and others. 

Under title "Recent Decline of the Native Oyster Fish- 
ery" they give data showing the production of Olympia 
Oysters from 1910 to 1946 inc. This data was secured 
from actual production records of the growers and ship- 
pers, and confirmed by the statistics of the fisheries. 
This data I have also confirmed by the use of the records 
in my possession, during the many years when the Olym- 
pia Oyster Growers were advertising and paying 
assessments on a bushel or sack basis by its members. I 
believe them to be substantially correct. 

In 1910, the production was about 24,000 bushel. In 
1915, it had increased to 36,000 bushel. In 1916-17, there 
was a very heavy freeze. The beds were then only partly 
under dikes, and the loss was heavy. Production 
went down in 1917 to about 18,000 bushel. From then on 
to 1924, there was a steady increase to approximately 
50,000 bushel. It remained rather constant until 1926. 
From 1926 to 1932 it declined to 19,000 bushel, only 43% 
of the peak in 1924. From 1932 to 1936, it had climbed up 
again to about 25,000 bushel. From that time to the end of 
1946 there was a decline to the 1910 level of 16,000 bushel. 

The story from that time on, I have secured from the 
records of the principal growers, as well as my own per- 
sonal contact with the industry. It remained fairly 
steady, on an average, although there were ups and 
downs of a few hundred bushel, until 1948 when there 
was a decided downward trend. By 1952, it had de- 
creased to about 7,500 bushel, and during 1955, to about 
3,500 bushel. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

Although the demand for Olympia Oysters has been 
so great that the price has gone up to $25 or more per gal- 
lon, yet the industry has operated at a loss during the 
past several years. A float load of oysters that formerly 
would cull out 18 to 20 bushel of good marketable oysters 
has in recent years only yielded from one to two bushel 
of poor quality oysters. The load consists principally of 
shell of dead oysters. Meats of the live oysters are poor. 

The set of seed is very poor. There is no place where 
seed can be had, as this is the only place in the world 
where this species grow. The prolific State Reserve beds 
in Oakland Bay have been entirely destroyed. 

The Fisheries report above referred to, printed in 
1949, predicted serious trouble ahead. Their careful in- 
vestigation eliminated by facts therein set out, all other 
factors than one; Sulfite Pulp Mill Waste. Oyster growers 
have felt in their hearts that this was true, and have 
been fighting for better controls of this waste for some 
twenty-five years. 

In conclusion, I must say that The Olympia Oyster 
industry is very sick. In fact it is, at this writing, on its 
death bed, unless the knife that is stabbing at its heart 
can be removed. Those who love the Olympia Oyster, and 
who grew it still have hope. In nature there is always 
survival; no such thing as extermination of species by 
nature. But trade waste is man-produced poison. There 
must also be progress in industry. But man has been 
given intelligence to find ways and means to prevent the 
trade waste from destroying the natural resources so 
that all may survive and live together. 



The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


Other Oystermen I Have Known 

from the beginning, the heart of the Olympia Oyster in- 

The Indians recognized that fact. Oysters abounded 
here in their native state. The tide flats were rather 
level, were well protected from the storms, and the 
oysters were easy to get. Therefore most of the natural 
beds had been occupied and claimed by Indians at the 
time of the passage of the Callow Act by the first State 
legislature. This qualified them as the purchasers of the 
Oyster land they were occupying. 

Appearing there, we find their names, or the English 
names they had adopted on the original Plats of Oyster 
land in the office of the State Land Commissioner. Olym- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

pia Jim, Mary Olympia Jim, Dick Jackson, Sandy 
Wohaut, James H. Tobin, H. R. Weatherhill (whose wife 
was an Indian), J. A. Gale, Jack Slocum, Jim Simmons, 
and C. William Krise. Many of these Indians were per- 
sonally known to me. So far as I can learn all of them 
have passed on. They were then people of the older 
generation and knew little or nothing of the industrial 
methods of the whites, and were not able to cope with 
them. Most of them soon sold their oyster beds and mov- 
ed to their Indian Reservations; some to Squaxin 
Reservation, others to the Yakima Reservation, or else- 

A few Indians were employed as oyster workers. For 
the most part they performed their work in a satisfact- 
ory manner when supervised. They were good boatmen, 
and very skilled in handling oyster floats with a pole. 
But in hunting or fishing season they would lose interest 
in their work; their eyes would turn toward the woods or 
down the Bay toward the fishing grounds. They would 
yield to the impulse to follow the life of their ancestors 
and no matter how important the work you were doing 
they would slip away without notice. 

The Indians kept leaving gradually, and it was only 
a few years until they were practically gone. Charley 
Johns and his wife Mary, their son, Delbert, and his 
children and Jamison Peters, son of Joe and Molly Peters, 
are, I believe the only Oyster Bay Indians who have con- 
tinued to work in the oyster industry to the present time. 
They were replaced mostly by the Japanese, who took 
readily to this work and were very satisfactory. 

Dick Jackson was an interesting old Indian. For years 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

he lived on the land adjoining his oyster beds. After he 
sold his oyster beds, he went into the chicken business. 
The difficulty these people had in adjusting themselves 
to modern methods is illustrated by his failure. One day 
he told me, "Chickens no good for Indian. White man 
chickens get all time more, get much eggs; Indian chic- 
ken die, get no eggs. Oyster better for Indian. All time 
muk-a-muk (food)." So he retired to Squaxin Island Re- 
servation where he could dig clams and catch fish. The 
last time I saw him I said, "Well, how are you today, 
Dick?" His answer, "Oh fine, only all time sick." 

Sandy Wohaut, whose oyster beds I acquired after his 
death, gave me a bit of Indian lore. At the south end of 
his beds a narrow but deep gorge extends back into the 
upland. It has rather a level bottom, a fine bubbling 
spring, and alder trees. He said that when the Yakima 
Indians declared war on them all the Indians of Oyster 
Bay would come there, hide in this ravine until the raid 
was over, living on oysters and clams. They must have 
done that for many years, for I took many scow loads of 
oyster shell from there rotting with age, and spread 
them on the oyster beds. They proved to be good cultch. 

I have already given the story and life of the early 
pioneers of O^^ster Bay. It would not be a complete his- 
tory of the Olympia Oyster without mention of others, 
who from time to time, have come into the picture; the 
younger generation. For instance, J. J. Brenner took his 
son. Earl G. Brenner, into his firm, after he returned from 
service at the end of World War I, about 1918. Earl 
gradually assumed his place of leadership. In turn Earl's 
two sons Earl R. and John, also took their place in the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

firm. J. J. Brenner is still president, while each of the 
younger generations are officials of the corporation and 
perform the more active duties. They are all capable and 
highly respected by their fellow oystermen and fellow 
citizens. They have inherited fine qualities of thrift and 
natural ability from their ancestors. 

Dave McMillin, a biologist and former scholar of Dr. 
Kincaid, formerly with the State Fisheries Department, 
is now General Manager of the Olympia Oyster Com- 
pany, and B. L. Taylor, President of the Pacific Coast 
Oyster Growers Association, is Sales Manager. These 
young m.en are taking over the operation of the largest 
company in the oyster business in Puget Sound, in a very 
able way. 

Any old timer v/ill remember J. Y. V/aldrip. He was 
one of the first to file on Oyster Land. When I first knew 
him, he was manager of the oyster beds for the Olympia 
Oyster Com^pany, and was affectionately called " Old 
Joe." His son J. S. Waldrip has been closely connected 
with the Olympia Oyster business for many years, and 
was mentioned by Dr. Hopkins, Biologist, as being of 
m.uch help to him in carrying on the experimental work 
for the Fisheries Departm.ent mentioned elsewhere. His 
son Nat is associated with him at this time, operating the 
land formierly owned bj^ Jesse Bov/man and family. 

Will Waldrip, a cousin of J. S. Waldrip, was also an 
early employee of the Olympia Oyster Comxpany. Later 
he puchased and operated the Weatherill beds. These 
beds have again changed ownership, are owned by 
Louise C. Wachsmuth of Portland, Oregon, and are oper- 
ated by Ellison Brothers. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol})mpla Oyster 

The Olympia Oystei Investment Co. of which Dr. G. 
W. Ingham was President for so many years, has now 
been consolidated with the Olym.pia Oyster Company, 
and his son, Dr. Reed Ingham, is president of that com- 

Many others during the years have come and gone. I 
have briefly mentioned those who have been the back 
bone of the Olympia Oyster industry in Oyster Bay. In 
the decline of that industry some owners and operators of 
oyster land, in an effort to use the land to the best avail- 
able advantage, have recently substituted the Pacific 


Mud Bay, in my judgement, ranks second in im- 
portance in the bays where native oysters were found in 
abundance, and in the place its oystermen and oysters 
have taken in the Olym.pia Oyster industry. 

As in Oyster Bay, a number of the original applicants 
for oyster land titles were Indians. The names of Little 
Charley, Mud Bay Lewis, Mud Bay Tom, Mud Bay 
Charles, George Leshi, Mollie Peters, and Kate Charley, 
appear on the original plats in the state land office. 

Likewise Indians all sold their oyster land to the 
white pioneers, and have long since passed away. Mollie 
Peters and her husband Joe retained their oyster land 
and have continued to operate it or lease it to others un- 
til their death. Their son Jamison and family have oper- 
ated these beds to the present time. 

J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. and the Olympia Oyster 
Company have owned and operated extensive beds in 
conjunction with their holdings in other bays. Their part 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

in this story has already been told, but there are others 
in Mud Bay that I have known and desire to mention. 

Way back in the beginning of our history of the 
Olympia Oyster, Charley Brenner and his brother J. J. 
Brenner, became interested in the native oyster. They 
Vv^ere among the first, if not the first, to see a future for 
this small but delicious bivalve. That was back in Ter- 
ritorial days. The United States Government owned the 
title, but the Indians had possession. So Charley and Jack 
formed a partnership and acquired possession of a tract 
of oyster land from, an Indian, on the west side of Mud 

Jack told me this story of their first experience in the 
oyster business. After examining the beds they decided 
they needed more seed on their ground. They knew of 
the abundance of seed in Oakland Bay. But how to get 
them to Mud Bay was the problem. There were no roads 
connecting these bays in those days. The only means of 
transportation was by water. There were no boats other 
than Indian canoes and row boats. There were no motor 
boats or power other than the strong muscle of man. 
They knew how to use a push pole, for they had rafted 
logs. So they built themselves two log floats and although 
the distance was long and the currents hazardous, they 
decided to undertake the voyage. They loaded the log 
floats with oyster seed, and with the aid of the currents 
and wind, and their push poles where they could reach 
bottom, they made the trip. It took three days, but they 
finally arrived in Mud Bay and the oyster industry was 
on its way. 

Charley Brenner filed on oyster land on the East side 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

of Mud Bay. He developed it by use of a fine system of 
dikes, grew a good oyster, and continued to operate it 
until his death. His family still operates it. 

Mud Bay was never the seed producing ground that 
Oyster Bay was. Years later than the incident above re- 
lated, J. J. Brenner Oyster Company acquired their 
holdings in Oyster Bay. It was very good seed ground. I 
have often seen their long string of scows loaded heavily 
with oyster seed from their own beds, move out of Oyster 
Bay, towed by their own power boat, to be planted on 
their beds in Mud Bay. What a difference a new mode 
of transportation has brought about. 

History records that Michael T. Simmons was among 
the first pioneers to settle in this region, and that Chris- 
topher Columbus Simmons was the first white male child 
to be born West of the Columbia River. It is therefore of 
interest to know that several of his relatives have be- 
come interested in oyster production in Mud Bay. 

M. C. Simmons, a pioneer oysterman on the west 
side of the bay, was one of these. He died many years 
ago, but his widow carried on. Then their son Dudley 
continued until his death. Those beds are now owned and 
operated by Hershel H. Adams. On these beds are still 
found the Olympia Oyster, about the last in Mud Bay. 
ZaZa Simmons, another pioneer oysterman, is also re- 
lated. He has been for many years an oyster grower and 
packer on Mud Bay. His shucking plant is located near 
his oyster beds. 

The Ellison Brothers, Ray and Newell, are also re- 
lated to the pioneer Simmons family through marriage. 
In 1924 they purchased a small tract of Mud Bay land 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

from the granddaughter of M. C. Simmons. Through in- 
dustry and hard work they covered the mud with gravel 
from the beach, diked the land and planted Olympia 
Oysters on it. Thej' soon erected a small opening and 
packing plant on the shore. They have prospered, and as 
they have prospered, they have increased their oyster 
beds in Mud Bay and acquired beds in both Oyster Bay 
and South Bay. At the sam.e time they have remodeled 
their plant, which is modern, sanitary, and convenient, 
ranking among the best. 

Ellison Brothers have struggled to prevent the decline 
of the Olympia Oyster, but gradually they have found it 
necessary to substitute the Pacific Oyster on some of 
their ground. In 1955, they harvested only 812 gallon of 
Olympia Oysters and 35,000 gallon of Pacifies. 

Bob Bowers, son-in-law of Ray Ellison, became man- 
ager of Ellison Brothers after World War II. He and both 
Ellison Brothers have been leaders in the struggle to 
prevent pollution of oystering waters in Mud Bay, where 
the Olympia Oyster has declined until, unless something 
happens soon to restore the waters to their natural state, 
final extinction will have to be recognized. 


I have already spoken of the pioneer days and of 
some of the pioneers of those days, Joe Deer and family, 
Thomas O'Neil and family, A. L. McDonald and wife 
Margaret. Also of the important part the State Oyster 
Reserve of Oakland Bay has taken in the history of the 

Others have also operated Olympia Oyster beds there. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

1 have in mind my good friend James Mitchel, who for 
many years lived on the Narrows. Also Lawrence Gosser, 
who still lives above the Narrows; and George Yoshihara 
and family, who at one time had a well diked and heavily 
producing bed. All of these have had to abandon their 
beds. Not only the Olympia Oyster, but Pacific Oysters 
as Vv^ell, have been wiped out by trade waste. 

I have not spoken of the "Narrows" as an oyster pro- 
ducing area. The "Narrows" divides the upper and the 
lower parts of Oakland Bay. The waters are swift either 
on an incoming or an out-going tide, and although deeper 
than the other oyster ground, the conditions were ideal 
for the setting of seed. Tongs were used to remove the 
seed and oysters. In the early days, vast amounts of them 
were taken from these waters. 

Recently I have received new evidence in regard to 
this. Angus O'Neil, son of pioneer oysterman Thomas 
O'Neil of Shelton, made available a copy of a special 
edition of the Mason County Journal. Grant Angle pio- 
neer publisher, was then editor of the Journal. It bore 
date of August 11, 1905. 

A full page was given to the Olympia Oyster industry 
and its importance to Mason County. 

Several pictures illustrated the industry. One picture 
shows the Narrows. Sixteen oyster boats can be seen, 
each containing tongers for oyster seed. 

Statistics are quoted showing that at that time 20,000 
sacks, or 40,000 bushel of Olympia Oysters were being 
marketed from Mason County annually, besides many 
thousand sacks of seed oysters from the Narrows and 
other State Reserves. Further that several hundred men 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

were employed in the industry. 

Above the "Narrows", when the tide is out, to this day 
can be seen the remains of many old dikes. This shows 
the result of dream.s that did not come true. This sys- 
tem of grading and diking was done by early pioneers 
whose names I never knew. But it is evident that the 
dikes silted with fine mud and sand, that oysters did not 
do well, and that the owners became discouraged and 
abandoned them. It illustrates that conditions must be 
right to grow Olympia Oysters with success. If not, much 
hard work and expense will be wasted. This was true in 
many other places where native oysters were not found 
and artificial methods were used. The pioneers had to 
learn the hard way, the trial and error method. 

Little Skookum Bay is a long and narrow Bay, ex- 
tending in a northwesterly direction into Mason County. 
It divides from Oyster Bay at Old Kamilche. The tidal 
waters run swift in places; in other places it widens out. 
Here the tide flats are more level and adaptable to the 
cultivation of oysters. Likewise, other natural conditions, 
such as salinity, water temperature, and oyster food, 
were always favorable both for seed setting and the 
growing of a good Olympia Oyster. 

Native oysters were found there by the first pioneers. 
U'lyssus (Les) Young and Dan Lynch were the early 
pioneers of that bay. Dan Lynch passed away in the early 
days. His two sons, Dan and Jerry took over the oyster 
beds. They have both died, and the beds have been divid- 
ed between Dan Lynch, Jr. and his sister, Mrs. Frank W. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ohjmpia Oyster 

Les Young owned oyster land near Old Kamilche. 
x\lso a beautiful upland tract near the beds where he 
built his home. The bay widens out at his place into a 
cove, where there were native oysters. When the diking 
and leveling era arrived he, in common with other oyster- 
men, began to think of expanding his oyster land area. 
He was faced with a very difficult problem; much more 
so than in those areas in the upper waters of Oyster Bay 
and Mud Bay where the tide flats v/ere level. But Les was 
a hardy pioneer, and a lot of hard work did not discour- 
age him. 

In planning this development, he did a wonderful 
job of engineering. The results showed that he had much 
knowledge of tidal flow and of the effect of the winds 
and storms. Also of the dike level necessary to get best 
results. One of his greatest problems was to construct 
the dike in such a way that the silt or mud would not 
collect behind the upper dike, and so the currents would 
flow over the beds in such a way as to deliver food to the 
oysters. These problems were caused by the contour of 
the cove. 

To accomplish th^se things it was necessary to put in 
a long, curved, high dike. In fact, it was too high to con- 
struct with any material used in those days, so he m.ade 
use of the nearest thing at hand — a sort of clay, gravel 
and mud. Other oystermen predicted it would wash out, 
but Les was sure of its holding qualities. He also knew^ 
how the tide current flowed, and from whence the winds 
came. (See picture). 

It required a tremendous amount of material both for 
the dike and the long deep fill behind it. This was all 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

done by hand labor, loading on log floats or scows from 
the shore, polled out and dumped at high tide. Finally it 
was leveled up, the dike closed and oysters planted. Les 
produced a fine oyster as long as he lived and his step- 
sons, Herbert, Hum.phrey and Arthur, have cultivated 
oysters there to this day. 

The J. J. Brenner Oyster Co. also owned and develop- 
ed oyster land in that bay, and still operates them. 


North Bay was not extensively developed in the early 
days, and a large part of it was set aside by the State as 
an oyster reserve. Those who did try to develop it had 
great difficulties, and the quantity of oysters shipped 
from there was relatively small. 

The streams flowing into this Bay are small, but in 
the rainy season they overflow. They wash silt and sand 
down over the beds v/hich covered the oysters. 

Finally Humphrey Nelson, of Little Skookum Bay, 
largely solved this problem by constructing an artificial 
current system which flushes silt out of the dikes. He 
also successfully used lath, covered with a thin coating of 
cement, and suspended above the bottom. Olympia Oys- 
ter seed set on this and in a short time the lath disinte- 
grated and the oysters dropped onto the ground. He grew 
some good oysters where others had failed. 

South Bay had but a small area where Olympia 
Oysters thrived. That part was developed. Harry Allen 
owned and operated the beds for some years, then sold 
to Everett (Pete) Maynard. Pete has a few Olympia Oys- 
ters at this time. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 


Olympia Oyster Peculiarities. 

Olympia Oyster from another if they saw them in the 
shell. Yet, there is a difference; each locality produces 
an oyster that is slightly different. This difference was 
soon learned by customers who bought them in the shell. 
They could look at an oyster and tell the ground on which 
it was grown. This was very important to them, for some 
oysters opened easier than others, and some oyster beds 
produced oysters that were fatter than others; had more 
meat content. A hard shell oyster was a better shipping 
oyster, but took longer to open. From a fat oyster the 
customer got more oyster meat per bushel or sack. 

The appearance of the oyster meat was also a factor. 
The oysters grown on beds in one locality have a very 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

dark rim or mantle; from another locality the mantles 
are much lighter in color. Each customer had his pre- 
ference. Many famous oyster houses where Olympia oys- 
ters were served advertised the special quality of the 
oysters they served because they came from a certain 
selected oyster bed. This made it difficult for the grower 
or packer when the trade became too particular. But 
when production began to decline and Olympia Oysters 
became scarce, these difficulties disappeared. Then the 
question asked by the customers was, "Can you supply us 
with Olympia Oysters?" 

Yes, each oyster has its own personality. 

(J 14) 

The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 




love to do them. Others because they have a financial 
interest in what they do. Such is the relationship be- 
tv/een F. W. (Mat) Mathias and the Olympia Oyster. He 
has never owned or operated an Olympia Oyster bed nor 
had any financial interest in the packing or distribution 
of them. Yet, he has contributed generously of his time 
and energy. 

Mat was Secretary of the Olympia Chamber of Com- 
merce for thirteen years. Before he came here, he was a 
booster for Olympia Oysters because he was fond of them 
as a food. When he accepted the said position in 1941, he 
took up as his keynote the advancement of Olympia's ex- 
pansion by the use, in all the city's publicity, of the 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

phrase "Olympia, the home of the Olympia Oyster." This 
received popular approval, and many an article was 
written and published in magazines and newspapers 
which gave extensive advertisement to both. Mat joined 
the Olympia Oyster Growers Association. He attended 
our meetings regularly, and helped us to solve our pro- 
blems. He served on m.any important committees. He has 
a sense of compatability and diplomacy, balanced with 
good judgement. Although he had no financial interest 
he paid his dues, performed important duties requiring 
travel expense without remuneration. 

This continued, not only during the boom days of the 
industry, but during its decline to the present time. He 
has fought for the protection of the natural resources of 
our state, our oysters, clams, fish and other sea food, but 
especially the Olym.pia Oyster. He contends that the bal- 
ance of nature in our waters must not be disturbed, and 
that trade waste, especially sulfite liquor, should not be 
permitted to enter our public waters. He has served on 
our Pollution Committee for years. 

The Olympia Oyster industry owes Mat Mathias a 
great deal for his unselfish and very able service. 



and Consultant Washington State Dept. of Fisheries 

This is another who has been deeply interested in 
Olympia Oysters most of his life, but has had no finan- 
cial interest in them. He has had a long and illustrious 
career in the University of Washington, as is witnessed 
by his title. He has risen to the top. When he retired 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol})mpia Oyster 

he was recognized as an eminent biologist authority 
throughout the United States. The Olympia Oyster was 
one of his favorite subjects. He graduated hundreds of 
students from his department. Many of them have be- 
become well known biologists for other states, some for 
the Department of Fisheries of the United States Govern- 
ment or the Fish and Wild Life Department. Several have 
found their place with the Washington State Department 
of Fisheries. Others have become employed in the oyster 
business in this state. Many of these biologists have 
devoted themselves to oyster biology in this state to the 
Olympia Oyster. So directl}^ and indirectly, Dr. Kincaid 
has had a tremendous part and influence in that industry. 
I have been told by those who attended his lectures 
that they were something to look forward to. He had a 
keen sense of humor, and a fitting story to illustrate each 
point. This was true also in his public speaking. I have 
many times joined his audience in laughter. I can well 
remember the first time I saw Dr. Kincaid. It was about 
the year 1905. I was driving a horse and buggy near the 
Harry Weatherill oyster bed. Looking through the 
woods, I saw a young m^an with a pole in his hand; on the 
end of the pole was a net. His heavy black hair was di- 
sheveled; he wore no hat; he was waving the pole wildly 
in the air as he ran through the woods. Somewhat con- 
cerned, when I arrived at the Weatherill home I told Mr. 
Weatherill of the incident, and asked if there was a 
wild man in their vicinity. He laughed and replied, No, 
that is young Kincaid; he is just catching butterflies." He, 
at that time, lived in Olympia, where his father was a 
Doctor. Dr. Kincaid was for some years the City Health 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

officer. It was long after that when I met Trevor as a 
biologist, teaching in the University. From that time on, 
he has been a close and beloved friend. 

He was not only a close friend of the Olympia Oyster, 
but of those who were engaged in the Olympia Oyster in- 
dustry. He not only lectured about the Olympia Oyster 
but wrote many articles about them for publication. His 
advice was eagerly sought and followed by the oyster 


In closing, I wish to acknowledge and express my 
appreciation to those who have assisted me in this at- 
tempt to give a true and complete history of the Olympia 
Oyster industry. 

I also wish to apologize for any errors or lack of clar- 
ity in composition. To consolidate fifty years of history 
of an industry as com.plex in its activities as that of the 
Olympia Oyster, with a balance of importance given to 
each of its problems, and keep within reasonable limits 
as to length, has taxed my memory and ability. 

I also wish to extend my deepest appreciation to the 
Olympia Oyster Growers Association and to all those en- 
gaged in the industry for the friendship I have enjoyed 
through the years. Also the honor they have bestowed 
upon me by so many times delegating me as their repre- 
sentative in matters of great importance to the industry 
mentioned. These things have inspired my best efforts, 
enriched my life and given me happiness. 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 


The Olympia Oyster and Pollution 

pollution agents discharged into lower Puget Sound as 
industrial waste and their deleterious effect upon the 
Olympia Oyster with the resultant decline in the Olym- 
pia Oyster industry. 

To Olympia Oyster growers today, and the old timers 
before them, it is evident that pollution is the principal 
cause of the depletion of these delicious bivalves. 

Before the white man appeared on the scene, these 
oysters had flourished for centuries in this, their native 
habitat. Early white settlers harvested the wild crops 
for over 40 years until the diking system was developed 
and vast stretches of tide flats were transformed into 
tidal pools. With the advent of the diking system, the pro- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

duction of Olympia oysters increased annually and from 
1924 to 1928 an average annual yield of 48,000 bushels was 
attained. (1) 

In 1927, a sulphite pulp mill was constructed in Shel- 
ton, Washington. The mill was located along the city's 
water front and the wastes from the pulp manufacturing 
process were discharged into Oakland Bay. Pulp pro- 
duction at this mill averaged 45,000 tons annually until 
1934, when production was increased to 60,000 tons an- 

By 1943, production had risen to 74,000 tons annual- 
ly (1). It is estimated that during the first years of opera- 
tion, the mill discharged 280,000 gallons (2) of waste li- 
quor daily into the water of Oakland Bay. This was in ad- 
dition to an estimated 12 million gallons of "white water" 
containing bleaching compounds and other chemicals. 
The results of this dumping of pollutants into oystering 
waters came swiftly and were devastating to the Olym- 
pia Oyster Industry. In the period between 1927 and 1933 
Olympia Oyster production declined 57% from the 1926 
peak to a low of 19,000 bushels. Between 1931 and 1934 
the pulp mJll disposed of its liquor into Goose Lake, a 
small body of water west of the city of Shelton, and in 
settling ponds on Scotts Prairie nearby. A temporary 
trend toward recovering oyster production began in 
1934 and reached 23,000 bushels in 1936. This small re- 
covery peak was nullified when waste sulphite liquor 
began finding its way from the Goose Lake area, down 
Goldsborough Creek into the waters of Oakland Bay. 

(1) Washington State Fisheries Bulletin 49 -A 

(2) U. S. Fisheries Bulletin No. 6 1931 (Page 177) 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

Experimental oyster plantings in Oakland Bay, financed 
by the pulp mill, had been producing some oysters dur- 
ing the period of dumping the liquor to Goose Lake; but 
when the liquor began returning down Goldsborough, 
these experimental beds were wiped out and the exper- 
iment was given up as a failure. 

The Washington State Oyster reserves, which prior 
to the advent of the pulp mill, had been producing two- 
year-old Olympia Oysters for seed were never again able 
to furnish seed and to this day produce nothing. Thus, an 
important source of revenue has been lost to the state. 

The following table and quotations from Washington 
State Fisheries 36th and 37th Annual reports throw 
much light on the condition of the State Oakland Bay 
Oyster Reserves. 

Year No. of Sacks Selling Price 

1925 3,467.4 $6,934.80 

1926 _..„__1,368.1 $2,736.20 

1927 1,894.2 $3,788.40 

1928 2,239.3 $4,478.60 

"According to the general custom in handling the seed 
in Oakland Bay beds, after the 1927 seed was sold from 
the upper dikes, the 1926 catch of seed in the beds close 
to the narrows was moved into the upper dikes and this 
seed in turn produced the two-year-old stock sold in 
1928. The lower beds left open for the setting of spat in 
1927 did not produce any seed and again last season, 1928, 
no set developed, likewise in 1929; to date indications 
point to another barren season. Mill operations were not 
fully underway in 1927 until after the usual oyster 


The Rise And Decline Of The Ol^mpia Oyster 

spawning period but the absence of any spawning in 
1928 and the indications for a barren season in 1929 have 
indicated that the wash water and considerable diluted 
liquor discharged from the Rainier (1) plant into Oakland 
Bay might be the contributing factor which is upsetting 
oyster spawning conditions of the state owned reserves 
and private oyster beds." (2) 

Experiments with Olympia Oysters and sulphite li- 
quor were carried out by the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries 
in 1930, at the request of local oystermen, under the 
direction of Dr. A. E. Hopkins, recognized the world 
over as one of the most brilliant acquatic biologists avail- 
able. Dr. Hopkins summ.ary states in part, "The dilution 
at which sulphite waste liquor toxicity ceases, when long 
periods of exposure are considered, cannot be stated. 
Only complete exclusion of liquor from oyster producing 
waters can be considered as safe." (3) 

Waste sulphite liquor contains also certain wood su- 
gar components which provides nourishment to a chain 
diatom that grows naturally in the waters of Puget 

This diatom (Melosira Borreri) normally "blooms" or 
grows heaviest in the early springtime when nutrient 
matter is conveyed to the Puget Sound waters by heavy 
spring rains. When fed by waste sulphite liquor this 
diatom will develop abnormally throughout all four 
seasons. These growths have at times gathered in some 

(1) The name was later changec to "Rayonier" 

(2) Washington State Fisheries Annual Reports Nos. 36 and 37 

(3) U. S. Bureau of Fisheries Buttetin No. 6 — 1931 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympic Oyster 

Olympia Oyster dikes tc a depth of 6 inches. Entire beds 
of Oysters have been smothered by a heavy, brown 
blanket of Melosira, which dense growth Biologist Har- 
vey C. McMillin describes as indicating a disturbed con- 
dition of the water in which it normally grows in small 
amounts. (1) 

In view of the terrible losses of Olympia Oysters, 
many Olympia growers sued Rayonier for crop and tide- 
land damage caused by waste sulphite liquor. Out-of- 
court settlements were made amounting to thousands of 
dollars, most of which the oystermen re-invested in im- 
proving their oyster ground in the mistaken belief that 
pollution would be abated. The citizens of Shelton con- 
tributed at least $150,000 dollars to pay damage settle- 
ments for the pulp mill when the mill threatened to close 
its doors. These citizens have never been reimbursed for 
their contributions to the pulp mill cause. 

Wartime conditions resulted in temporary closure 
of the mill in August 1943. It remained closed until Octo- 
ber 1945, when it re-opened and ran at a reduced scale, 
burning the great bulk of its liquor in a newly construct- 
ed evaporator disposal unit. (2) By fall of 1945 the Olym- 
pia Oyster beds were beginning to look more productive, 
the seed catch each year was looking better and the 
oystermen at last looked forward to an oyster production 
sufficient to fill their many orders. Pulp production at 
the mill began once more to climb and with the increased 
production came an increase in the pollutional load dis- 
charged to Oakland Bay. In 1948, production at the mill 

(1) U. S. Fisheries Bulletin No. 6 — 1931 

(2) Washington Fisheries Bulletin 49-A 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

was doubled and the State Reserves in Oakland Bay, 
which had started a comeback, were again wiped out. 

Oystermen in adjacent bays began to experience 
heavy mortalities in the lower dike levels and even the 
clams began to come up out of the ground and die on the 

In 1949, the State Fisheries Department published 
Bulletin 49-A which contained data on a study conducted 
by State Shellfish Biologists over a period of two years 
on the effects of sulphite waste liquor on Olympia Oys- 
ters. The summary of their findings is presented below: 

"1. During the period of 1927-1945 an unusual decline 
occurred in the Olympia oyster fishery of southern 
Puget Sound. There were years in which young oysters 
failed to set in areas where a regular spatfall had pre- 
viously been the rule. Gallons of meats obtained per sack 
of unshucked oysters decreased during this period by 
25 per cent. The mortality of mature oysters increased 
from 10 to 20 per cent (normal) to 30 to 50 percent and 
higher. Finally, the over-all production of the industry 
fell to 43 per cent of its previous value. 

2. A number of possible causes of this decline were 
investigated and found to be inadequate to explain any 
but a small fraction of this alarming decrease. Sulphite 
pulp mill waste alone appeared to offer a sufficient cause. 

3. Accordingly an experiment was performed to test 
the lethal effect over a long period of time of very low 
concentrations of from 13.0 to 128.9 parts per million of S. 
W. L. in flowing sea water for 575 days. In that time mor- 
talities range from 98 per cent in the highest concentra- 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

tion to 70 per cent in the lowest, while two controls 
showed death of oysters amounting to 52 and 53 per cent 
respectively. Statistical analysis of these results indic- 
ated an undeniable correlation between the mortality of 
the oysters and concentration of S. W. L. even at these 
low concentrations; concentrations at least as low as 13.0 
ppm. are inimical to continue Olympia oyster culture. 

4. Tidal current studies showed that fresh mill wastes 
from Oakland Bay could reach any of the oystering areas 
in lower Puget Sound within a period of a few days. 

5. It is concluded that pulp mill wastes originating 
at Shelton, Washington, were the most probable cause 
of the alarming decline in oyster production noted above 
for the following reasons: 

A. All other possible factors were investigated and 
were found not to have constituted sufficient cause for 
the depletion of the fishery. 

B. The time of pulp mill operation is correlated with 
the period of decline: the shut-down of the pulp mill was 
followed by definite improvement in oyster sets and fat- 
ness of mature oysters. 

C. Concentration of S. W. L. as low as 13.0 ppm. were 
experimentally demonstrated to have indisputable de- 
leterious and lethal effects on Olympia oysters. 

D. Tidal currents showed that pulp mill pollution 
from Oakland Bay could reach Oyster Bay on one tide 
and other oystering areas within a few days. It is obvious 
that Oakland Bay itself would b)ecome polluted. 

6. A modification of the Pearl-Benson test is present- 
ed, consisting essentially in the application of photo- 
electric calorimetry to the reading of the treated samples 


The Rise And Decline Of The Olympia Oyster 

together with a method of minimizing the effect of vary- 
ing natural water color. 

7. Employing this method of analysis a comprehensive 
study of the waters of the region was made during the 
period of mill closure. The data gathered will make pos- 
sible accurate determinations of very low concentrations 
of S. W. L. if present in the future. 

8. It is recommended that no S. W. L. be permitted in 
Olympia oyster waters since the hypothetical threshold 
of tolerance lies between concentrations of zero to 13.0 
parts per million. 

9. Provided this pollutant can be kept from the waters 
of southern Puget Sound, the native industry should- 
with proper management practice—recover and yield 
considerable greater annual harvests of oysters than has 
been possible during the past twenty years." (1) 

As this is written, Olympia Oyster production has 
declined to an all time low. It is estimated that 1957 pro- 
duction will be less than 1 ,300 bushels with practically no 
production possible in 1958. 

The Washington State Pollution Commission is re- 
porting sulphite liquor concentrations over Olympia 
Oyster beds and in practically all the waters of lower 
Puget Sound. These concentrations are correlated direct- 
ly with the operation of the Shelton pulp mill. Unless 
firm decisive action is taken by responsible state author- 
ities within the next few months, the Olympia Oyster 
v/ill go on down to virtually complete extinction and an- 
other of our great natural resources will be lost for all 
time to come. 

(V Washington State Fisheries Bulletin No. 49-A 

(128) THE END.